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AUTUMN 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 



EARTH 

THE INDIVIDUAL 

APRIL PANHASARD 

HALF IN EARNEST 

THE MAN WITH THE 
DOUBLE HEART 






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AUTUMN 

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BY 

MURIEL HINE 


(MRS. SIDNEY COXON) 

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NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY 
LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD 
TORONTO : : S. B. GUNDY : : MCMXVH 



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By JOHN LANE COMPANY 



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J. J. Little & Ives Company 
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TO 
MY BROTHER 

Major T. G. Macaulay Hine 



I sud, "Theie is an esd of (4 my deiiFe: 
Now have I sown, and I have harvested. 
And these aie ashei of an andent fiie. 
Which, verily shall not be quickened. 
Now will I take me to a place of peace, 

Forget my heait'a denre; 
hi Bolitude and pnyei, wwk out my loul's nleaae." 

—EnmtDemm. 



AUTUMN 



t^ 



AUTUMN 



CHAPTER I 

Reluctantly Deirdre awoke from a dream of fields and 
flowers. On her cheeks was a delicate flush of health, 
and she rubbed her eyes with a childish gesture, aware 
of a dancing disc of light — the reflection from the look- 
ing-glass of an inquisitive ray of sunshine. 

Sleepily she watched it dart in its merry will-o'-the- 
wisp course round the barely furnished room and across 
the ceiling. 

How it danced I . . . 

A sudden breeze through the open window lifted the 
blind, and the hot glare of a June day leaped into her 
face. 

She sat up, blinking, and glanced at the clock. The 
hands were motionless, pointing to four. It must have 
stopped in the night — she decided — her ears meanwhile 
on the alert for a movement in the flat. 

From the Earl's Court Road below came the rumble 
of traffic; a heavy bus floundering past and the shrill 
insistent sound of a whistle blown to attract a taxi. 

Beneath this throbbed a recurring refrain. A hawker 
crying aloud his wares in a hoarse but musical voice: — 

"All a-growing and a-blowing! Plants. . . . Ferns. 
. . . Palms. . . . F/ottf-ers!" 

"I'm sure it's late." Deirdre's arms, bare to the elbow, 
white and rounded, went up to her head and she tossed 
back her hair which fell in a red-brown cloud about her. 

Then, with a quick movement, she threw off the bed- 
clothes and slipped to the floor, her slender feet seeking 
instinctively for a pair of slippers which, with the way- 
wardness of inanimate things in a moment of haste, had 
hidden beneath the valance. 



lo AUTUMN 

At last she unearthed one. G>ntent with this, she 
hopped across the dingy carpet to the dressing-table in 
search of her watch. 

Her eyes of that clear gentian blue which turns violet 
at night glanced impatiently across the scattered trifles : 
the well-worn ivory brushes that had been hers as ia 
girl, a little trinket box of faded morocco and the odds 
and ends of her simple toilet. 

"Ah!" she gathered up the wristlet and turned it 
over. "Nine o'clock !" 

For a moment she stared at the dial aghast, horrified 
by her discovery. 

"Wherever can Day be? It's breakfast time! And 
Mark will be getting so cross — he hates unpunctuality I" 

Then with a resolute movement she twisted up her 
hair into a knot on the <!rown of her head and, reaching 
across to the wall, pressed the bell. 

Even now, with this unbecoming coiffure, the freshness 
of her skin, the red and sensitive mouth and the low 
forehead, as yet unmarked by lines, were not without 
beauty — b, beauty fully matured where youth still lingered, 
poignant, sweet. 

A gentle tap came at the door. The maid entered the 
room : a little creature with a pale, pointed face and clever 
eyes, wide-open, of a full and lustrous grey. 

"Good morning, mum!" She smiled as she spoke. 
"Many happy returns of the day! I thought, seeing it 
was your birthday, mum, and the master not getting up, 
I'd let you sleep on." 

Deirdre's face relaxed. 

"Not getting up?" she caught at the phrase. "You're 
a wicked woman, Day I It's past nine o'clock. And what 
about Cook?" 

"I've seen to that, mum. It's all arranged." She spoke 
with a little air of triumph. "There's nothing to worry 
about, so do go back to bed and have your tea com- 
fortable like." 

Her mistress laughed. "No — I'll drink it here." She 
sat down in a basket chair, whilst Day arranged on a 
table beside her the tray with its steaming cup and a 
large full-blown rose thrust into the narrow neck of a 



AUTUMN 1 1 



vase. ''What a lovely flower ! Is this a present from you ? 
I'd quite forgotten it was my birthday." 

"Well, mum, it's part of it." Day looked mysterious, 
but Deirdre's thoughts had flown elsewhere. 

"Did Mr. Caradoc tell you not to call him?" 

"He pinned a paper up outside his door, mum." 

Deirdre nodded. 

"He was late last night ?" 

"Yes'm." 

The maid bustled about the room with a light, quick 
step that breathed of energy, shaking out the scattered 
clothes and gathering up articles needed for the bath. 

"The water's nice and hot, mum, there's no cause to 
hurry. Til just bring in your letters — " she disappeared. 

Deirdre sipped her tea thoughtfully. 

"Thirty-five to-day. . . . I'm getting old! And yet I 
don't feel different. It's very perplexing." Her eyes 
grew wistful beneath their long lashes. "I almost wish 
I did ! It would make life easier — less blank somehow — 
to have quite done with youth. Perhaps it's because I 
have no child?" 

Absently she rearranged the rose, giving the crushed 
stalk room to expand. 

"One gets self-centred. Though I can't picture Mark 
as a proud parent — not at his age ! He hates noises so ; 
it would have a cramped existence, poor little soul ! — not 
allowed to laugh. Then, the expense! No, it wouldn't 
have done, it's a hard enough struggle as things are." 

She shook off the faint regret deliberately and was 
smiling again as the maid came back with the morning's 
post and a little flat parcel which she laid on the table 
by Deirdre's side. 

"What is this?" Deirdre broke the string and fotmd 
within the paper some handkerchiefs with a birthday 
card on which was inscribed in careful writing: — 

"To my dear Mistress, from yours respectfully. 

Day." . 

"How very pretty — spoiling me again ! Thank you so 
much/' she held out her hand. 



12 AUTUMN 



The maid took it shyly in her work-worn one. 

"It's nothing, mum ! I worked the initials — and the/U 
do for mornings — ^you was getting very short." 

**I should think not indeed. I shall keep these for 
best!" Deirdre fingered the fine lawn lovingly. 

A bell rang sharply through the flat. 

"The master!" Day was off. "I'll be back in a 
minute, mum." 

Mrs. Caradoc turned to her letters. 

"She is a good soul — utterly devoted! I don't know 
what I should do without her." 

She frowned as she opened the topmost envelope. "An- 
other bill, I'm sure. Yes, it's for coal. And a begging 
circular — 'Holiday Fund for Workers.' Well — I'm one 
myself! — and I can't afford this year to go away for a 
change. But there's never a charity for the middle 
classes. We pay all round and get no return." 

The last document was a catalogue for a sale at 
Barker's, headed: "Astounding Reductions." 

"I daren't look at it." Deirdre tossed it aside. 
"Shabby I am and shabby I'll remain. Besides at thirty- 
five I ought to take to black !" Her mouth twisted into a 
whimsical smile. "A nice birthday budget ! I think I'll 
get up now." 

She threw on a kimono and proceeded to the bath- 
room. There she found Day turning off the taps. 

"It's quite ready, mum. Is there anything more ? I'm 
just running across to the dairy for a couple of new- 
laid eggs. There's none in the flat and the master says 
he don't feel like herrings this morning." 

Mrs. Caradoc sighed. 

"And only on Tuesday I ordered eggs and he sent you 
out for fish !" 

Day nodded, her grey eyes wise. 

"Yes'm — ^but I think 'tis best to humour him." 

Her glance conveyed a warning which her speech with- 
held. 

"I see. Very well." Deirdre imderstood. Mark Cara- 
doc's temper was no secret in his home. "For goodness' 

sake, see they are new-laid " A youthful gleam of 

mischief lit up her face. 



AUTUMN 13 

"Fresh from the hen, mum," said Day demurely. 

Deirdre's thoughts ran on as she splashed in her 
bath. 

"It's the only way : to treat it as a joke. No servants 
would stay with us otherwise. And the faithful Day 
never takes advantage; that's the comfort . • . and the 
miracle !" 

Half an hour later she was in the dining-room, making 
the tea, neat and trim in her home-made blouse and dark 
serge skirt, which moulded her still-slender rounded 
figure. 

The pink rose was tucked in her belt and its full-blown 
glory seemed to accentuate all that was rare and fine in 
the wearer. 

As she added the last spoonful of tea and poured in 
the water from the copper kettle, the door opened and 
Caradoc came in. Broad-shouldered, tall and fair, he 
moved languidly, a fine figure of a man for all his forty- 
nine years. The small head well set on his powerful 
neck was crowned with smooth thick hair of a pale 
reddish gold. 

Women admired Caradoc immensely, yet his friend- 
ships with them rarely lasted. Temperamentally he was 
cold, and after the first fleeting amusement of a new 
flirtation he quickly tired, too indolent to pursue his con- 
quest further. 

When he was bored he showed it at once — a sin that 
society rarely forgives — and many people suspected his 
temper which had left its mark on his handsome face. 

To-day the warning signs were there. 

Deirdre, glancing up quickly, saw in the grey eyes a 
glint of something cruel and the set lines of his full- 
lipped mouth. An air of gloom hung about him — a 
menace as though the slightest thing would precipitate the 
storm. But she nodded her head with a smiling wel- 
come. 

"Good morning, dear. What a lovely dayl" 

This was her method — the only chance of peace I — ^to 
Ignore his darker moods and tide over the hours in 
which she could not actually avoid his presence. 

He nodded back without speaking and took his place 



«1 



14 AUTUMN 

facing her at the breakfast table. Then, turning round, 
he stretched out his arm and jerked down the blind im- 
patiently. 

"If you feel the sun, would you like to sit here?" She 
pointed to a chair on her right. 

"I wish you wouldn't worry me I" He bit out the 
words. "I know what I want — I'm not a child !" 

Deirdre's face went rigid with an effort at control. 

Caradoc lifted the cover of the dish that lay before him. 
'Herrings!" His voice breathed disgust. 
'Day is bringing some eggs for you. It was no use 
cooking them until you were ready." 

"Oh!" He glanced up at the clock, then lolled back 
moodily in his chair. 

"Here is your tea." She passed him the cup, stretch- 
ing her arm far out to meet his half-hearted response. 

The silence prolonged itself. 

"D'you want one of these?" he asked at length point- 
ing to the fish. 

"Please." Her answer was serene but beneath the 
table she clenched her hands. 

Of late, during the heat wave, her nerves had troubled 
her and she felt at times a wild desire to ease the strain 
of the burden she bore by sharp retorts — the contempt 
she felt for the boorish manners he reserved for his 
home. But she knew it would be fatal and she herself 
lose strength. Her pride kept her up when the flesh was 
weak. 

In the early days of their married life scenes had 
been frequent ; for, even then, under the spell of genuine 
passion he could not control his besetting sin. Deirdre 
had learnt to her cost that habit is stronger even than 
love and can work the undoing of the latter. 

A spoilt child, his mother's weakness with him had 
sown the seeds which were to bring forth those thistles 
on the stony path of another woman then unborn. 

Now Deirdre forced herself to eat the food before her 
and to turn her thoughts towards the simple plans for the 
day. A memory of the bill for coal rose up and her 
lips twitched. This was hardly the time to .produce it! 

Day came in with a fresh dish and hot plate and laid 



AUTUMN IS 

them down noiselessly before her master, her gaze 
averted, her mouth tight. 

Caradoc roused himself. He ladled out a poached 
egg and sat staring down at it. Then, with his fork, he 
prodded the toast 

"Tough— of course!" He darted a glance across at 
his wife, but Deirdre now was sheltering behind the folds 
of the paper. 

"Damned bad cook I" she heard him mutter. 

Silence again, heavy, complete. The drawn blind over 
the window prevented what air there was from entering. 
The tension seemed unbearable, like the suspense of wait- 
ing for thunder. 

"Ten long years of this^' — she thought, biting her lips 
— ^"all my youth and now it's gone ! What is left in the 
years ahead — when I'm really old and ugly and broken ?" 
A sob rose into her throat. She choked it down des- 
perately. "It's all very well to pretend outside that I 
don't care, but it's such a life! Work — ^work — work — 
economise. Try to be brave and cheerful and good. Go 
without all that women expect — ^pretty rooms and clothes 
and flowers ! I wouldn't care if in my home I had com- 
panionship and love." 

Her husband's voice made her jump. 

"Is there any more tea ?" It sounded aggrieved. 

"Yes." Her answer seemed to her to come from 
somewhere far away. With a great effort she mas- 
tered herself. "Plenty." She laid the paper down. 

He came across to fetch his cup, greedy eyfes on the 
folded sheet 

"Don't wait if you've done. I'd rather be alone this 
morning." With that he gathered up the paper. 

The half surly words of dismissal angered her, against 
her will. 

"Well, here's something else for you to read." She 
handed him the coal merchant's bill. 

"Eh— what? What's thisr 

She was at the door. As she slipped through she heard 
the storm break behind. 

"This damned fiat! Eats money . . . ! Three 
Pounds f ... I won't pay it. There's waste somewhere I 



i6 AUTUMN 

You'll have to stop it D'you hearf I^you think I'm 
made of gold?" 

"No, I don't," said Deirdre, as she vanished down the 
narrow passage. But she spoke the retort beneath her 
breath. "You're made of clay — common clayl" 

She had reached her room with the final words. 

Day was there, busily dusting. After a moment's hesi- 
tation the faithful maid went on with her task. 

"In case he follows her," she thought. Then out 
aloud, as she bent down to straighten the rug before the 
hearth, — **lt's going to be scorching hot to-day. I hope 
you'll get out early, mum. A breath of air would do 
you good." 

"Yes." Deirdre welcomed the thought. She pinned 
on her hat hurriedly, with hands that, for all her courage, 
shook. "I'll go now. I've the books to change at the li- 
brary." She caught them up, with her gloves and purse, 
and glanced for a second down the passage. 

"I'll let you out, mum," said Day quickly. She fol- 
lowed her mistress ; a little, grim, determined figure, true 
as steel. 

As they passed the dining-room a voice, loud and 
angry, followed them. 

"That you, Deirdre? Look here *' 

But the pair had already reached the entrance. 
Quickly, Da^ unlatched the door and closed it with a 
sigh of rehef behind the well-beloved form. Then 
she answered the summons herself. 

"No, sir. It's me — Day. Is there ahything I can do 
for you ? The mistress has just gone out." 

She stood there coolly, facing him, the light of battle 
in her face. 

"No! Yes — ^you can clear away." He scowled at 
her, his eyes bloodshot "And be quick about it" He 
added sharply. 

"Yes, sir." 

But she took her time. In her loyal heart, she said 
to herself: 

"On her birthday, too! the poor lamb. I can't think 
Vfhy men was made I" 

Caradoc moved across to the window, the coal bill 



AUTUMN 



17 



still clutched in his hand. Every now and then his lips 
moved. He was muttering to himself. 

Day caught the angry murmur. 

"He's just like the folk in the Bible as was possessed 
by a devil," she decided, pleased by this flight of fancy. 
"He ain't hardly safe to be with when he gets into one 
of his tantrums I I wonder the mistress don't break down. 
It's enough to ruin a woman's health. That it is I / 
wouldn't stand it. I'd have taken this to him long ago I" — 
she handled the bread-knife lovingly. 

"Yes, sir. Did you speak?" 

Silence. 

She went out, rattling the tray. 



CHAPTER II 

The telephone oell rang sharply. Deirdre answered the 
call. 

"Yes. Who is it?" 

A voice came back, bigh-pitched and artificial. "Mrs. 
Hardwick. I want to speak to Mr. Caradoc. Is he in ?** 

"No, I'm afraid my husband's out." 

"Oh, is that you, Mrs. Caradoc? How are you in 
this heat? Isn't it dreadful f — ^Just like August! It's 
simply ages since we met, but then the season's such a 
rush! I've only just got back from Henley — a week- 
end with the Studys — ^and the motor broke down coming 
home. I'm frightfully late and quite worn-out! I really 
think these week-end visits are a mistake, don't you? 
On the go from morning to night — and late hours — ^and 
then the tips!** A frivolous laugh followed the speech. 
"It's more expensive than an hotel! And now I find 
a letter waiting from a man who was dining here to-night 
and playing bridge afterwards — ^just two tables, that's 
all! — ^to say that his father's taken ill and he's going 
North. It's so annoying." 

The speaker broke off for breath, but before Deirdre 
could answer she was off again, the wire buzzing. 

"I wondered if Mr. Caradoc — ^he's so kind, isn't he? — 
if he's not engaged, would fill the gap? It would be very 
good of him and pretty Mrs. Lwibart's coming — he 
admires her, doesn't he? What a pity you don't play! 
Why don't you, dear Mrs. Caradoc?" 

"Because I can't afford it," thought Deirdre, but out 
aloud she made the excuse, "I really find no time for it'* 

"Of course not," the spieaker's sigh suggested a faint 
hint of relief. "With your painting — I'd quite forgotten 
that How I envy you ! Such a gift. But I'm not tal- 
ented at all — a 'butterfly' Cecil calls me ! Well, will you 
spare your husband to me? — just for one evening! Do 
say you will!" 

i8 






AUTUMN 19 

"Fm sure he'll be delighted to come. But you'd better 
ring him up yourself. He sometimes arranges a game 
at the Club." Deirdre was laughing now. ("I'm only 
too thankful to 'spare' Mark to-day" — ^was her secret 
thought.) "I'll give you his number at the office." 

"How sweet of you," said the voice. "Wait a min- 
ute, I'll write it down. . . . And then, some day, later on, 
we must meet, you and I, and have a nice quiet chat. I 
must fly now — my massage-woman is waiting for me. 
Oh, by the way, she's simply splendid if you want any 
face-treatment, amusing too! — goes ever)rwhere and 
knows all the latest gossip, although, of course, she's 
quite discreet !" 

Deirdre tried in vain to fit these somewhat conflicting 
statements together. Her arm ached with holding up 
the receiver to her stunned ear. 

'Then I mustn't keep you," she said quickly. 
'Oh, she can wait," said Mrs. Hardwick. "I wanted 
to ask you, have you seen Mrs. Meredith lately? I 
hear she's going to divorce her husband. I feel so sorry ! 
I must confess I like him — a charming man! Such a 
pity, don't you think so ? — to make these sort of quarrels 
public! Oddly enough he reminds me a little of Mr. 
Caradoc — not in face, but the same courteous, amusing 
manner! But, then, quite between ourselves, she is so 
dull, isn't she ?— completely wrapped up in the children." 

"Perhaps they're a consolation." Deirdre's voice was 
rather dry. "I'm fond of Laura Meredith and I don't 
think she's too happy; nor likely to take a step like this 
unless there were definite cause for it. I should say he's 
what our American cousins quaintly call 'a street angel' ! 
— ^not so charming in his home. I'm afraid I must go 
now — ^you have the niunber? Yes? Good-bye." She 
rang off. 

"What an exhausting woman!" she thought. "Hard 
too. Poor Laura!" Her face was very pitiful. 

"Now, there's a heart of pure gold — a real, true un- 
selfish wife and mother. Yet she hasn't a chance ! Not 
an ounce of the happiness that the 'butterfly lady' takes 
as her due! It's a funny world." She stared out into 
the dusty road below and her eyes fell on a barrow of 



20 AUTUMN 

flowers, a fresh and vivid splash of colour. ''I shall 
never be a Londoner! They're a race apart — ^I'm coun- 
try-bred." A sudden memory of her dream returned: 
of cool and verdant fields. "Well, I must go and get my 
gloves, though I don't feel inclined for that 'At Home' 1" 

She studied herself in the glass that hung over the man- 
tel-piece. Her dress of nut-brown taffeta threw up the 
clearness of her skin and the dark blue e^es gathered 
depth tmder the shady brim of her hat ; a simple one of 
coarse brown straw with a single drooping ochre feather. 

"I really do look rather nice !" she thought, with a smile 
at her vanity. "If only I had some new gloves. . . . 
Never mind ! — ^the cleaned ones must do." 

She went back to her room to fetch them, sewed on a 
button that looked insecure and bending down to her 
patent shoes gave them a last rub with a cloth. 

It was the year when scarves were worn and she drew 
some folds of yellow chiffon round her shoulders and 
secured them with a knot of brown and yellow pansies. 

On her way out she paused at the pantry to speak to 
Day. 

' I'm going now ; I shan't want tea. If Mr. Caradoc 
rings up to say he won't be home to dinner stop G)ok 
from doing the chicken — ^fish will be enough for me. 
And you'll see his clothes are all put out ready for him, 
won't you, Day?" 

"Yes'm. You do look nice ! You'll excuse me, mum, 
for saying so?" 

Deirdre laughed happily. She ran down the flight of 
stone steps which led to the street, and at the door met 
an incoming telegraph boy. 

"Fcr Caradoc," he explained. 

"For me?" She took the envelope and tore it open. 

The message ran : — 

"Many happy returns of the day, dear child." It was 
signed simply "Mother." 

"No answer." Her cheeks were flushed. 

"Then I'm not forgotten," she said to herself, "after 
aUf— I'm glad of that." 

The bus was intolerably hot ; she was wedged between 
two portly women in an odour of petrol and cheap scent. 



AUTUMN 21 

but to-day she hardly noticed it. She began to look for- 
ward to the party. 

Perhaps Laura would be there? Or there might be 
music — ^a good band . . . ? 

Before the Hyde Park Hotel, carriages were drawing 
up, discharging dainty, well-dressed women, and occa- 
sionally a man in a taxi. 

She went serenely up the steps and joined in the 
stream pressing on. She heard the servant call out her 
name — ^''Mrs. Mark Caradoc" ! — and in front of a screen 
of crimson ramblers was received by her hostess, a large 
lady with a puffy face set in a smile, and restless eyes 
that glanced at her and passed on to the next arrival. 

Deirdre struggled through the mass of chattering 
women, with here and there the face of a bored and 
heated male, until she reached the balcony where tables 
were laid ready for tea, overlooking the green of the 
Park. 

A tall girl with a hard face under the latest fashion 
in hats nodded to her and said abruptly, "Colonel Japp," 
as she hurried past. 

Deirdre glanced down with a smile at the object of 
this introduction, a short but erect middle-aged man with 
grizzled hair and prominent eyes. 

"You'd like some tea," he said at once. "Hot, isn't 
it? This way — empty table at the end." 

He steered her through, making a path by sheer force, 
pulled out a chair and almost pushed her into it. 

"Tea — coffee — or anything iced? Can't recommend 
the cup," he added. 

"Coffee, please." He was off at once to intercept a 
flying waiter. 

Deirdre leaned back in her seat, her eyes instinctively 
drawn to the Park, and the fine old trees with their 
heavy burden. 

"I say, Jim," said a voice behind, "collar those 
strawberries before they're gone." 

"Righto!'* A black-sleeved arm came over Deirdre's 
shoulder, and without any apology the dish was hurriedly 
abducted. 

"And the cream, you rotter I" 



22 AUTUMN 

Deirdre turned, faintly indignant, and saw the face 
of a young girl with elaborately waved fair hair and a 
chiffon dress cut into a "V" to the limit of propriety, 
but "saved" by a beautiful "malmaison." 

Her eyes, dark and worldly-wise, returned Deirdre's 
quick glance with an insolent stare, and travelled down 
over the brown taffeta. 

Colonel Japp came bustling back. 

From the table behind rose the remark, whispered but 
plainly audible : 

"Jappy's got the 'lemon' — what?" followed by a burst 
of laughter. 

"If that's youth," thought Deirdre, "I'm rather glad 
to be middle-aged." 

She turned to her cavalier, stiffly seated by her side, 
thankful to see that the shot had missed him. 

"How clever of you to get this table ! It's nice to feel 
a breath of air." 

"Yes," but his eyes were wandering. He brought them 
slowly back to her. "Did I see you in the Park this 
morning? At the meet of the Four-in-hands. Seem to 
remember your face, somehow. Or perhaps it was at 
the Opera last night?" 

"No, it couldn't have been me — " she broke off as the 
waiter appeared with a cup of coffee, a Perrier and glass. 

"I'll bring the whiskey, sir, in a minute." 

"Regular scramble to get served here," the soldier 
grumbled. "Always the same! No method — German 
waiters." He twisted the ends of his moustache. 

"Let me see — we were talking about the Opera last 
night. I thought Caruso was decidedly out of voice. . . . 
Did you see Lady Marlow in Rudolf stein's box? They 
tell me—" 

A gay young voice cut through the speech, again from 
the noisy table behind. 

I say, can you spare that cream?" — then, sotto voce. 
Shut up, Jim 1" 

But Deirdre forestalled the Colonel as, obediently, he 
reached out his hand. 

"We don't mind exchanging it for the strawberries," 
she suggested calmly. 






AUTUMN 23 

The girl caught the twinkle in her eyes. 

"All right— it's a deal !" She laughed shortly. "Rather 
a sport 1 she announced to *'Jim.' "Pass 'em across — 
we've taken the best." 

Back came the dish with its mangled remains. 

"I hear," the Colonel plodded on, "she is going to 
be at the Ball to-night — ^the Albert Hall one, of course — 
in the costume of Cleopatra. Some one suggested that 
Rudolfstein should go as the Asp — rather funny. Ha 
ha!" His abrupt laughter was like a bark. "You going? 
What's your dress? No! Why not?" 

His prominent tired old eyes seemed to pop out as 
though on springs. 

"I've given up dancing." Deirdre smiled. 

"Oh, there won't be much dancing done — ^beyond the 
pageant part, I mean." He looked at his neighbour 
curiously. "Up from the country," he decided. 

One of the hostess's daughters passed and tapped his 
shoulder. 

"When you've done — " she murmured, then paused 
to shake hands with a guest. "Oh, Lady Brayle, 
have you had some tea? Let me introduce Colonel 
Jappr 

He jerked himself onto his feet at once. 

"Delighted! Won't you take this chair? Tea — coffee 
— something iced?" 

But Lady Brayle produced from behind her a languid 

girl. 

"My daughter," she said. 

Deirdre laid dovm her empty cup and rose from the 
table. 

Japp looked relieved. 

"Here are two places. No, thanks, I've had all I 
want." With a little nod she passed on towards the 
doorway. She was checked by an incoming rush of 
people and, to her amusement, caught the words : 

"Did I see you in the Park this morning? Or was it 
at the Opera last night?" 

"Does he say it to everyone, I Wonder?" Her face 
brightened as she caught the wave of a hand from the 
furaier room, beckoning, and a friendly smile. 



M AUTUMN 

"There's Laura I What a relief! If only I can get 
to her." 

She saw her chance and was pressing on when she 
felt a sharp tug at her dress and found her further prog- 
ress checked. 

"Let me help you," said a voice. "There's a nail in 
this table — jolly careless!" 

She glanced round. The end of her scarf was firmly 
caueht on the projection. 

"It doesn't matter/' she gave it a pull, exasperated 
by the delay. 

"Hold hard — ^you're tearing it!" 

The breezy voice held her attention. She saw a man 
of youthful years, with a fresh brown face and laugh- 
ing eyes, blue as her own. Something sincere and friendly 
in the answering glance made her feel that here at least 
was a kindred spirit — ^an individual divorced from the 
crowd. 

She moved closer, relieving the strain on the fragile 
material. 

"I'm so sorry. It's giving you a lot of trouble." 

"Not at all! Won't you sit down?" He nodded to 
the empty chair he had just vacated. "If you stand 
there you'll get battered in this . . . mob!" 

He lower^ his voice on the last word with a quick 
mischievous smile at her. 

She slid into the narrow seat willingly. Already an 
arm with a sharp elbow had driven its way into her 
back. 

"Is that just as easy for you?" She watched his 
nimble fingers work the nail sideways, loosening it. The 
chiffon was wound mysteriously round this and the iron 
work. "It will come out in a minute. I'm a r^^ular 
'handy man' you know." 

"I thought so." He bore the mark of the Navy un- 
mistakably. 

There !" He threw the nail away out of the window. 
Now it's easy. Good egg!" The scarf was loose. 
"And I've saved the gusset!" His voice was triumph- 
ant. 

"Gusset? — oh, you mean the hem." Deirdre laughed. 






AUTUMN 2$ 

'Thank you so much. I saw myself like Absalom, sus- 
pended here for all time." 

She made a half movement to rise. His face changed. 

"Oh, I say, don't go. Have you had some tea? You 
might take pity on a fellow. I don't know a soul here! 
What about some strawberries?" 

The two other occupants of the table rose and wandered 
off. 

"That's great!" He seized a waiter, gave his order 
and settled down facing Deirdre, to her amusement taking 
her consent for granted. 

"I wonder if you know my brother? His name's 
Thursby — a commander." 

"Thursby? You don't say so! I was under him in 
my last ship. And you're his sister? I'm glad now I 
strayed into this battle-field. Look here, I'll tell you a 
secret!" He leaned across the narrow space dividing 
them, his eyes dancing. "I'm here under a false flag — 
not a guest, not eveh invited !" 

"Did you climb in from the Park?" Deirdre gave a 
smothered laugh. He looked so mysterious. 

"No, but I might get out that way. Happy thought ! 
It's rather a drop!" He peered dovm from the win- 
dow. 

"Well, don't do it while I'm here — I don't want to be 
called at the inquest !" 

"Don't be abrmed. As a matter of fact I'm not at 
all anxious to go now.** 

He gave her a frankly killing glance, so boyish she 
could not take offence. 

"Tell me the whole stoi^," she said. "I promise I 
won't give you away." 

"No, don't — 'have me for keeps,' as a girl once said 
to me in Florida, Though I'm rather off girls at pres- 
ent. . . ." He stared past her out of the window. 

Deirdre saw that a slight cloud had overshadowed his 
bright face. 

"Yes?" she put in very gently. 

He gave her a quick sidelong glance. Her sympathy 
drew his confidence. 

"Turned me down," he said grimly. "She was pretty, 



26 AUTUMN 

too." He sighed. "Like a flower. Oddly enough she 
was named after one — ^Hyacinth. I dont know why 
I'm telling you this — it can't amuse you in the least ! ' 

His listener evaded direct reply. 

"There's something deliciously spring-like about it — 
the name I mean. I can picture a girl with a slim curved 
neck and pale gold hair. I think, too, she'd have long 
white hands." 

"That's her — ^to a tick !" He glanced at his new friend 
in amazement. "Jolly clever of you to guess it. Now 
what's the colour of her eyes?" 

"Ultra-marine. No, greener than that — ^like the sea 
in the North on a sunny day." 

"I say! Are you a clairvoyante?" 

"No, I was thinking of the flower." 

A little silence fell between them. Then the boy went 
on again. 

"I hadn't an earthly chance, you know. Another 
chai>— funny thing. . . ." 

"And she married him?" 

"Heavens, no! He was married already— that's the 
trouble! . . . Hullo! here arc our strawberries. Now!** 
He piled them on her plate. "Too many? Oh, nonsense. 
I like to feel I 'spoil the Egyptians.' Come to think of 
it, the hostess looks somewhat like the Sphinx. Who is 
she, do tell me?" 

He laughed as he put the betraying question. 

"I shan't tell you. Not imtil I hear the whole of the 
adventure. You might be a burglar in disguise— oh, 
do stop!** He was pouring the cream over her fruit 
recklessly. 

"That enough? Well, it's like this. I came to town 
just for the day to see my dentist — he lives in Sloane 
Street— did some shopping in the morning and turned 
in here — the grill-room — to lunch. I'll pass over the hor- 
rible hours I spent later in that chair, but, anyhow, I 
crawled back half an hour ago to pick up a parcel. Then 
I felt a longing for tea and remembered I'd once had it 
here in this balcony over the park — seemed a jolly good 
idea. I noticed there were a lot of people crowding in 
but until I got level with the first door it never struck 



AUTUMN 2^ 

me it was a party. Then some villain seized my hat and 
the people behind pushed me on and before I knew where 
I was I was shakin|^ hands with a stout lady, and Fm 
blessed if she didn't mtroduce me to two girls as 'Captain 
Brown'! My name's TroUope — Ralph Trollope — but I 
wasn't anxious to explain. I thought the best thing was 
to feed them and then slip out quietly. 

''But the awful part of the business was, there was 
only one door through which you could leave, guarded 
by the elderly sphinx. Each time I've made a dash she's 
turned me back with a fresh draft!" 

Deirdre laughed at his despair. 

"Why didn't you say you had an engagement elsewhere 
— were bound to go on ?" 

"I did! But no one listened to me. They never do in 
polite circles. You talk and they take a rest and look 
about, or vice-versa. Doesn't matter what you say I 
Haven't you ever noticed that ?" 

"Yes— of ten. But then you see I'm not at all a society 
woman. I'm an onlooker — partly by choice." 

"I'll bet you see more of the fun ! It must get pretty 
stale at times. Now I like London for a week — the the- 
atres and all that — ^but not to live in. Lord, no ! There's 
nothing for a man to do." 

Deirdre, watching his smooth young face, browned by 
the sea, agreed with him. 

Colonel Japp came bustling past with Lady Brayle, 
his forehead crimson. His prominent eyes encountering 
hers held no glimmer of recollection. 

"What a life !" She thought to herself. "And that's a 
man who has tasted power and has seen the world and 
service abroad ; to retire and come home to this — ^trading 
in small talk and muffins 1" 

*'Well?" Trollope was smiling at her, "A penny?" 

*'Not worth it," she laughed. They talked a little 
longer, then she glanced at the watch on her wrist. 

"Time I was going — it's getting late." 

**Must you? If so I'm coming with you. You can't 
desert your brother's pal! Promise me that you'll see 
me through ?" 

"I'll do my best." She pushed back her chair. "I 



28 AUTUMN 

could introduce you if you liked and put things on a 
better footing?" 

For a moment he looked aghast. 

"Ah, you're only pulling my leg. You're awfully like 
Thursby, you know. I think it's the eyes — though he's 
older than you." 

"Yoimger!" she laughed over her shoulder as she led 
the way through the doorway. "By two years — ^Jack was 
the baby." 

"You don't say so! You're joking again?" 

"No, it's true, she laughed back. "You want to get 
round me — I know why 1" She made a mischievous ges- 
ture towards the hostess whom they could see ahead, still 
on her feet, shaking hands. Against the background of 
wilting roses, her tired, fat face shone like a moon. 

Soon they were near enough to hear her. 

"Good-bye" . . . "meet Monday" . . . "don't forget 
Friday's dance" . . . "so glad" . . . "good-bye." . . . 
She looked on the verge of a collapse. 

"And that's pleasure (' thought Deirdre. . . . 

"Now for it !" said her escort. 

A few late comers were annotmced. The hostess 
braced herself anew. 

"How de do? Let me introduce . . ." she glanced 
sideways and checked Trollope, "Mr. Digby," she said 
firmlv. 

"I m afraid I must go," the victim stammered. 

Deirdre came to the rescue. 

"We're dining out," she explained, ''early — so sorry — 
good'hye" 

They fled past the line of lackeys. 

"That was a near shave," he whispered. "Thought 
the old Sphinx had got me again 1 Wait a second. I'll 
fetch my hat. I'm going to drive you home, if I may? 
My train doesn't go till eight o'clock." 

Deirdre paused at the nead of the stairs. 

A pair of guests stood below her exchanging a few 
parting words. The girl had a wistful, pretty face. The 
man looked distinctly bored. 

"Dreadful crush," the girl was saying in a weary voice, 
"wasn't it? I only went because of the dance. You 



AUTUMN 



29 



will turn up, won't you, Ted ? I explained to her that I 
should bring you." 

"I'll try to," the man replied. "Not sure I can man- 
age it. Did you taste that *cup* ? Poisonous 1" 

"No, but the iced coflFee was tepid." 

The man laughed and raised his hat 

"Well, I'm off. You don't catch me going to one o£ 
those shows again!" 

He did not attempt to lower his voice. 

"And that's gratitude/' thought Deirdre. 



CHAPTER III 

The clock outside slowly boomed twelve. The windows 
were both opened wide, but the blinds hung immovable. 
The air felt burning and used up. 

"It's no good," E)eirdre decided, "I can't sleep. I'll 
get a book." 

She made her way to the dining-room and switched on 
the electric light, blinking a little at the glare; then be- 
came conscious of the relief of the dark walls and stained 
floor. The room felt cooler than her own. 

On the wide desk a drawing-board was propped with 
an unfinished plan. Absently she stooped and picked a 
pencil off the floor beside it, glancing at her husband's 
work. It was a design for a garage to be added to a 
country-house. 

Caradoc was an architect, the junior partner in a firm 
which had steadily worked its way to the fore in the 
careful hands of his uncle and cousin. 

Deirdre knew that he owed his position solely to his 
mother's influence. James Goodenough tolerated his 
nephew's presence in the office on the plain understanding 
that the latter took no active part in its management. 

He received a minor share in the profits but his work 
was mainly that of a clerk. 

This was gall to the younger man's pride but the indo- 
lence and love of pleasure that underlay his outlook on 
life was stronger than the call of ambition. He grum- 
bled; but took his money. Moreover he fear^ his 
mother's brother. 

Goodenough had long ago summed up his junior part- 
ner. He treated him with a smiling disdain, profoundly 
indifferent to his temper; aware too that at times his 
nephew could be useful on the social side. He brought 
in wealthy clients whose tastes ran to "cottages" in the 
country which often grew by means of additions to the 
dimensions of a mansion. 

30 



AUTUMN 31 

Caradoc showed a certain skill in designing these play- 
things of the rich. It suited his own inclinations and 
although he was not a true artist he had an eye for pro- 
portion and line. His secret leaning to luxury helped 
him in the choice of detail. His "cottages" were not only 
artistic — ^they were comfortable and well arranged. 

Goodenough rarely interfered in this minor depart- 
ment of his office. The real business of the firm was the 
erection of public buildings in which his son took an 
active part — a quiet, steady, plodding man ten years 
younger than Caradoc. 

Both father and son liked Deirdre. At times they sin- 
cerely pitied her. Twice since her marriage a threatened 
rupture between the uncle and the nephew had been 
averted through her intervention, unknown to her angry 
husband. 

But in between his blacker moods Caradoc held an odd 
appeal to the people who knew the man well. It was not 
induced by his handsome face alone, but by something 
disarming in his nature; like a spoilt child he resisted 
correction but reserved the right to an ultimate pardon. 

All through his life this curious trait — the wistful hint 
beneath the reserve and cold indifference of his manner — 
had knocked at the doors of stronger hearts, calling to 
their sense of protection. 

*^ou can't *elp feeling sorry for 'im! 'E don't mean 
it,'* his nurse had said. " 'E's a tartar and no mistake — 
but there • . . !" She stayed for fifteen years. 

A spoilt boy — sl spoilt man — he had never learnt self- 
control. Proud and touchy, he placed the fault of his 
lack of success at others' doors. But beyond this playing 
with the truth to soothe his hurt vanity, he was honest at 
heart and very loyal. Deirdre knew that no single word 
of their private quarrels would pass his lips outside his 
house, and that should anyone dare to hint at the slightest 
disparagement of herself, he would meet with a snub and 
lose Caradoc's friendship forever. 

Had his father lived, she often thought, how diflFer- 
ent might the outlook have been. 

Mark had needed the strictest discipline ; not the weak 
love of indulgence. But his mother had made the child 



32 AUTUMN 

her toy. She had rarely dared to thwart his whims in 
her almost sensuous craving for love. 

"He is all I have !" had been her excuse ; and she jeal- 
ously guarded him from the world. He had never been 
to a public school. His tutors were chosen by herself, 
his friends, his occupations even. And when she died 
she handed him, still wrapped in conceit, to her only 
brother. 

James Goodenough accepted the charge, trnwillingly, 
at his sister's death-bed. 

Loyal to that last promise, in the course of years, he 
had made him a partner, encouraged his efforts, ignored 
his temper, with a shrug of the shoulders that spoke 
volumes ! 

Caradoc, extremely good-looking and a bachelor with 
moderate means, had drifted into society of varying 
erades without effort. So far he had avoided marriage, 
but in his thirty-ninth year he met Deirdre whilst engaged 
in altering a country-house. 

The pretty sparkling young girl full of an eager zest 
in life, artistic to her finger-tips, caught his fancy and 
later his heart. 

He confided his future projects to her. Success he 
conceived to be his due though he lacked the patience to 
ensure it. He had not a tithe of her ambition which was 
of that nobler sort which deems a "man should strive to 
the uttermost" for the love of his work and his soul's 
welfare. 

She had studied painting at home and abroad, was 
steeped in the old romance of art She saw in him 
a second Wren. Heavens! — the wild dreams she 
dreamt. 

Their state was patent to the eye. Caradoc made a 
gallant lover and uoodenough's well-knovm status lent 
an air of solid hope to the future. The engagement was 
very short. Her mother's health was indifferent, and the 
doctors ordered a "winter South," so the marriage was 
hurried through quickly. 

A lavish wedding, a goodly trousseau ; presents poured 
in on the pair. The day passed in a whirl of excitement 
Then the first hitch occurred. 



AUTUMN 33 

On their way to the station they were delayed by a 
block in the traiSc and missed their train. 

Deirdre laughed, but Caradoc scowled. They decided 
to stay in London that night at the nearest hotel and 
start next day on the delayed wedding tour. 

All went well until the dinner, though the bridegroom 
was a trifle silent. The long dining-room was crowded 
and there seemed a scarcity of waiters. 

Caradoc disdained the menu and ordered, after due 
thought, a dainty meal d la carte. (He prided himself on 
being a gourmet.) 

Soup came, rather tepid, then a long empty pause. 
Deirdre, in the manner of brides, felt somewhat shy and 
insecure. 

^'Did the waiter guess ?" she wondered. For once her 
speech deserted her. Her husband looked so oddly gltun 
and answered in absent monosyllables. 

Then, as the man passed again, empty-handed, the 
storm broke. 

Caradoc's voice grew loud and fierce. He forgot his 
wife and all the world and shouted at the harassed ser- 
vant 

Deirdre, her cheek flushed with sudden shame, tried 
in vain to point out it was not the fault of the waiter 
at all. He had done his part. 

"But he gave the order, Mark," she said. "We've 
plenty of time — we can easily wait" 

No avail. She learnt then that intervention made 
matters worse. People twisted rotmd in their chairs 
and watched the scene with smiles or frowns. Caradoc 
at last ran down like a clock at the end of its day's 
work. 

They hurried through the rest of the dinner. It was 
characteristic of her husband that he gave the waiter 
a double tip. 

The man turned it over in silence. Caradoc was quite 
cheerfuL 

"I'll bet hell bring our breakfast to-morrow at double- 
quick time/' he said to his wife as they went up the 
broad staircase. 

He led her into a gloomy drawing-room and left her : 



34 AUTUMN 

"Just for a short smoke. You read the papers — shan't 
be long." 

She sat down obediently. 

Outside she could hear the trains rumbling heavily 
through the station. The room smelt unaired and close 
with its dusty artificial palms. She still felt a little 
stunned by this new side-light on her husband. Then 
her loyalty came to the rescue, helped by her keen sense 
of humour. 

"Anyhow," she said to herself, "they couldn't have 
guessed we were married to-day !" 

She picked up an old torn copy of a ladies' paper and 
studied it 

The great clock ticked on. At intervals she heard it 
strike. The melancholy of the place weighed on her 
like a portent. 

At ten o'clock the door opened and Caradoc came 
striding in, his eyes bright. 

"There you are!" His voice was hearty, his manner 
buoyant. "I came across such a good chap in the 
smoking-room — just back from Egypt. He's been work- 
ing up on that new dam. We had a ^eat yam together." 

"Yes?" Her voice was rather hstless. He stooped 
down over her. 

"But I told him I must get back to my wife." He 
emphasised the word, laughing. "And what a cold little 
wife it is ! What's the matter, Deirdre ?" 

Her pride forbade direct reply. 

"Nothing. I think I was half asleep !" 

He gathered her up into his arms, kissing her with 
sudden passion. 

"It's this beastly room. Let's get out of it." 

So they began their married life. 

Now, a far-oflF memory of her early ambitions for 
her husband swept up into Deirdre's mind as she studied 
the plan on the drawing-board. 

"Ten years," she said to herself, "and he's still con- 
tent to design a garage!" 

Again the blankness of the future closed in upon her 
spirit. If only there were something ahead to gild the 
Autumn of her life. • • . Some hope — 



AUTUMN 35 

She stirred herself and picked up a library book. 

"I think I'll stay here and read. Bed's such a hot 
place this weather." She curled herself up in the deep 
armchair where the leather felt cool and smooth. 

The volume was propped on her knees, the life of a 
painter long since dead whose work she loved; and as 
she turned the pages slowly her interest grew, blotting 
out the sense of time. 

She did not hear the door of the flat open and she 
gave a start as Caradoc entered the room. 

"Deirdre! You up still?" His eyes were shining, a 
slight flush was on his handsome fair-skinned face. 

"Yes. I foimd it cooler here." Instinctively she 
tucked her feet under her, aware of the fact that her 
slippers lay, thrown off, on the hearthrug. 

"It's not nearly as hot as it was." His voice was 
cheerful. Indeed he seemed a different man altogether 
from the dark-browed tyrant of that morning. 

"Enjoyed yourself ?" She spoke coolly. 

"Yes.' He smiled down at her. "You look like a 
dormouse curled up there." 

She guessed instinctively that he was in one of his rare 
demonstrative moods and she shrank a little into the 
chair. 

"Aren't you going to give me a kiss ?" 

She thought swiftly, her pride in arms. Yet a weari- 
ness lay upon her spirit forbidding conflict — ^the useless 
scene. Why not enjoy this moment of peace? 

"If you want one?" She lifted her face. 

His lips carelessly brushed her cheek. Then he 
straightened his tall figure. 

"Jove! I'm thirsty.' He helped himself from the 
decanter on the table, filled the glass to the brim with 
soda and drained it off. "That's better." 

He took the armchair facing hers, and went on with 
a happy laugh: 

"I^re been in luck ! — a good partner — Mrs. Lambart — 
that pretty woman." He drew out some gold from his 
pocket. "Listen to that !" He rattled the coins. "Pleas- 
ant sound, isn't it? Would you like a present, Deir- 
dre?" 






36 AUTUMN 

"A birthday present?" She nodded back, a touch of 
malice in her eyes. 

"What? — ^your birthday? So it is! Why on earth 
didn't you tell me?" 

She hesitated for a moment. Then let the tempta- 
tion slide. "I think when one has passed thirty that 
birthdays are best forgotten." 

"Well, you don't look itl Not a day. I'll say that 
for you, my dear." 

She laughed. "Thanks. Did you have a good din- 
ner?" 

'You guessed it from the compliment?" 

The natural sequence." She followed his thoughts, 
her blue eyes mischievous. 

"Well, you're wrong 1" he was yawning now. "It 
wasn't really up to much. Between ourselves, it's an 
odd thing, but they never give you enough to eat. The 
Hardwicks, I mean. Have you noticed that? All very 
well perhaps for women but a man hates a little pot 
with a mushroom and a pinch of rice. Followed up by 
a lamb cutlet — all bone and pink frill — ^and fluffy sweets 
and two cheese straws. The menu's full but your plate's 
empty 1" 

"Perhaps she's economical?" 

"But they're very well off," he objected. "One 
wouldn't say anything if they weren't They keep a 
whole pack of servants and motor cars and two 
houses." 

"Her dress must cost her something, though" — ^Deir- 
dre's face was demure — "and her massage and other 
things. She has no money of her ovm. Perhaps she has 
to glean a little out of the housekeeping accounts. She's 
a pretty woman — well-preserved. . . . How would you 
like her for a wife?" 

"Mrs. Hardwick?" He stared back, then chuckled. 
"No, thanks." 

"Why not?*' She pressed the point, curious to probe 
the thought behind. 

"Oh, I don't know — not my style. I like her very 
well in a way — " He caught Deirdre's watchful gaze 
and laughed aloud. 



AUTUMN 37 

"You silly child !" Then, absently, "Poor old Hard- 
wick ! he's a good chap — very quiet. But I don't wonder I 
How she talks! And there's nothing in it — like the 
dinner — whipped cream in Venetian glass!" 

"It's a good thing she can't hear you. She's a g^eat 
admirer of yours, Mark. She told me so, on the 
telephone, at the top of her voice, this afternoon. Then 
she asked me if I could 'spare* you, *just for one eve- 
ning. 

Wickedly she mimicked the high-pitched gushing 
tones. 

Caradoc laughed. 

"And what did you say?" 

"Ah — ^that's a secret." He gave her a glance, sud- 
denly keen, but she went on smoothly. "Next she be- 
gan to run down Laura and pity Captain Meredith. I 
rang off at the first chance." 

"He was there to-night," said Caradoc. 

"Ah! . . ." Deirdre's blue eyes flashed. She 
stooped down and drew on her shoes. The heavy plait 
of dark hair fell across her bent shoulders. 

"And if it's any comfort to you," her husband added 
with a smile, "I played against him. Here you are — I 
mean it. Get something you like." 

He held out the night's winnings. 

"No." Her face was an odd mixture of shy pleas- 
ure and wounded pride. "I don't want it — not all 
that" 

"Nonsense !" 

"Well — we'll go shares. I'd rather, Mark. Yes — 
honestly. I know you've been rather hard up lately." 

"All right," he spoke lightly, "as you like. It will 
pay the coal bill." 

Deirdre sat very still, the coins balanced in her hand. 
Under her lashes she studied his face. It was per- 
fectly calm and assured. Had he really forgotten the 
morning's scene? Did the memory of these outbursts 
fade as soon as his brain had cleared? 

And, if so, was it a kind of disease? For years the 
question had troubled her. 

Caradoc rose from his chair and felt on the mantel- 



(V 



38 AUTUMN 

piece for the matches. With his well-shaped but nervous 
hand, he lit his cigarette carefully. 

Then he glanced at himself in the mirror and smoothed 
his head with an absent touch. It shone red-gold in the 
light, the hair glossy and abundant. 

"How old are you, Deirdre?" His eyes were still 
fixed on the glass.. 

Thirty-five," she said simply. 

'And I'm forty-nine! — Thiiik of that. Nearing the 
sere and yellow leaf. Both of us." 

It seemed to her that a faint note of intention lay 
in this coupling together of their ages. 

The womanhood in her resented his calm assumption 
of the fact. 

"No," she said, "I'm still young." She drew her 
kimono closely round her with a gesture of unconscious 
pride. "I suppose it's the quiet life I lead. I don't 
feel old in the least." 

"And I?" 

For the first time she discerned a wistful appeal in his 
voice. Did he too regret his youth? — that golden youth 
for ever fled? 

It awoke in her a sudden pity ; the maternal touch that 
a generous woman feels for the man who has taught 
her passion and reaped in return a higher love. 

"You?" Her eyes shone clear and bright "You're 
young enough for me," she said. 

Caradoc turned abruptly. He seemed to be struggling 
with himself — with that odd stubborn nature of his that 
resisted love and yet craved it. 

"And what about the other women?" He smiled with 
his lips but his eyes were tender. 

She gave him a wise little nod. 

"I'm not afraid of them," she laughed. 

He threw his unfinished cigarette into the fire and 
bending down, drew his wife into his arms. 

This time he sought her lips. 



CHAPTER IV 

The steady purr of the sewing machine stopped with a 
sudden ominous jar. 

Deirdre, vexed, probed for the cause. 

"The needle's broken — ^what a nuisance! The last 
too. ... I meant to have bought a fresh packet yester- 
day. This comes of going to parties !" 

She folded the unfinished curtain with a sigh and was 
rising to put it away when she heard a knock at the front 
door and paused to listen anxiously. 

'*I quite forgot to say I was out! I hope Day will 
use her wits." 

Voices sounded in the hall, then steps in the next 
room. 

The maid entered, mysterious, and came close to whis- 
per the words: 

"I said, mum, I'd go and see if you were in — that I 
wasn't sure." 

"Who IS it?" 

"Mrs. Robert Thursby, mum." 

"Cousin Maddie!" Deirdre cried. "Oh, I'm so glad. 
Get some tea — as soon as you can." She was off in 
haste, her face radiant with pleasure not unmixed with 
surprise. 

She found her visitor in the drawing-room peering 
out of the broad window, a tiny creature, very slim, with 
exquisite little hands and feet. 

"Quick, Deirdre! Come and look at this woman in 
purple!" This was her greeting. "Isn't she just per- 
fectly lovely ? — Look at her cunning little hat !" 

But Deirdre slipped an arm around the tiny waist and 
drew her baclc 

"I'm not going to look at an)rthing — except you!" 
She kissed her fondly. "I'd no idea you were in Eng- 
land ! When did you cross ? Why didn't you write ?" 

"I guessed I'd take you by surprise." 

39 



40 AUTUMN 

Mrs. Thursby's pale face was mischievous under its 
halo of hair, crisp and white as the finest flax. Her 
dark eyes ran over Deirdre, with a quick comprehensive 
glance. 

"You're looking tired. How's Mark?" Her voice 
changed on the last word. 

"Very fit," said Deirdre lightly, as she drew her 
godmother down on the sofa. 

"Hml ... I reckon he ought to be. He knows how 
to take care of himself. And you're always studying 
him. A great mistake — ^it ruins a man !" 

Deirdre smiled. "I know you think that English- 
women have a habit of spoiling their husbands." 

"All the best ones— that's the pity. But I didn't call 
to discuss marriage ! I'm off to Paris to-morrow mom- 
mg. 

"Oh 1" Deirdre's smile faded. "Have you had enough 
of London already ? I never knew such a restless soul." 

"But I've been here a week/* the other protested. 
"Now, don't scold me, it's not my fault. Tve had a 
lot of business to settle — lawyers and so forth. Other- 
wise I should have been round here ages ago. Come 
with me to Paris to-morrow?" 

"Can't," Deirdre shook her head. "Still, you're a dear 
to think of it." 

"Well, then, another time. Now, I want to talk to you. 
I didn't forget your birthday, my dear, and I planned to 
get here yesterday. But it's no good hustling English 
lawyers. They only use longer words." She threw 
back her veil as she spoke. "That's better! It's hot in 
London, though I oughtn't to feel it after New York — 
but the air's diflFerent — less vital. What are you going 
to do this siunmer?" 

"Stay here," Deirdre smiled. "I shall try though to 
get away for a week to the sea when Mark goes golfing. 
I've really made no plans so far." 

"Then you'll leave them to me. I'll fix things up. 
Wait till you get your birthday present." 

"Now, look here. Cousin Maddie" — Deirdre was 
watching her face — "I do hope " 

But die elder woman checked her protest airily. 



AUTUMN 41 

'**Hope on — hope ever!' I wrote that in my copy- 
books with many another touching maxim, pretty on 
paper but nix in life." Her clever dark eyes sparkled. 
About her was a hint of mischief. Her whole personality 
seemed to exhale energy and unflagging will "Look at 
this!" She drew from a bag of gold chain-work, set 
in enamel, an envelope, opened it and flourished a pho- 
tograph. 

"Yours?" Deirdre leaned forward. 

"No, I'm too old for such vanities. It's a snap-shot 
of that quaint cottage I bought two years ago at Weav- 
ers. You remember? You helped me to furnish it and 
lectured me soundly on my extravagance 1 Then you 
were coming to stay with me, but I had to rush back 
to New York." 

"I remember." Deirdre took the photograph and 
studied it. 

"What a delightful little place 1 It looks as if it were 
very old." 

"It is. It was once the Turnpike Lodge ; in the good 
old days of this free land when you had to pay for 
the use of the road I Of course it's been altered and 
added to. The late owner bought the pair of cottages 
adjoining it and turned it all into one building. But 
the outside walls are just as they were. It stands at 
the comer where four roads meet and there's a room 
on the upper floor — here," she pointed it out with her fin- 
ger, "which has windows on three sides of it. I made 
that into a sort of den. It's a look-out tower to spy 
on your neighbours. You see everything that happens 
— all the social life at Weavers. I assure you, my dear, 
when the Fair was on, the traflic at times was quite 
alarming !" 

"It would be— after New York." 

Mrs. Thursby nodded gaily. 

"I had an idea at the time that I'd spend a part of 
each summer there, but now that Spenser's bought a 
yacht I've changed my mind. I adore the sea. And 
besides J must have people round me — clever people who 
do things as well as talk and spend money. Life's too 
short to bury oneself in a country village." 



43 AUTUMN 

"Yes — for youT Deirdre smiled. She knew that 
the woman by her side was far too cosmopolitan to 
settle for long in any place. Moreover, beyond her rest- 
lessness, her intellect must be satisfied. She had no 
individual talent on which to expend her energy, but in 
place of this her strong attraction drew like a magnet 
a clever crowd of painters and singers, poets and authors 
into her own hospitable circle. 

She radiated sympathy for all visible forms of beauty 
and her knowledge of art was no empty pose of the 
rich society dilettante. 

"So now there's this cottage on my hands." 

She glanced sideways at Deirdre. 

"You could easily let it," she suggested. 

"No, I'm going to give it you." 

For a moment Mrs. Caradoc stared at her guest, 
wordless in her astonishment. 

"Mel Why?" she stammered at last. "You're jok- 
ing, of course? I couldn't take it!" 

"And why not?" The little creature drew herself up, 
prepared for battle. Then as she saw a sudden mist 
veil the eyes that met her own, she smiled with a 
whimsical tenderness. 

"Say, honey— don't you know that I always get my 
own way? And I've just set my heart on this. I want 
you to have Tour Corners.' It's sure the very spot 
for you to indulge in a rest cure when you're tired. You 
can take up your sketching, too — it's lovely country — 
'hill air' and 'gravel soil.' ' Her eyes twinkled as she 
spoke. "The owner made a point of that — I don't know 
why. I should never dig. Perhaps it's good for some 
kinds of roses. 

"Deirdre . . ." She laid a hand tenderly over her 
young cousin's. *T)on't be obstinate, sweetheart." 

"I can't You darling I It's too perfect." The words 

came incoherently. "You don't understand " she bit 

her lip. 

"Yes, I do." Mrs. Thursby nodded. "You've gotten 
this flat and you can't afford two houses, is that it? 
Well, of course I figured it out before I went to those 
dreary lawyers. You needn't refuse on that score. Now, 




AUTUMN 43 

lean back and listen to me, and don't you dare inter- 
rupt r 

Deirdre helplessly obeyed. Her brain was in a whirl. 
She saw not only the Turnpike Lodge, but a way of 
escape for her weary nerves; a sudden brightening of 
the future; new interests; new visions. ... 

But Mrs. Thursby was talking again. 

"I'm going to make you understand what lies at the 
back of this idea. I think you know when poor Robert 
died it was only my children who kept me sane. I lived 
for them. I had ample means. My father was not a 
millionaire but he wasn't far short of it and I was his 
only daughter. I brought them up as Robert wished — 
we talked it over before the end. The boy had an Eng- 
lish education, but the girl stayed with me in New York. 
I went back there as soon as I could, but I came over 
frequently to share Spenser's holidays and take him 
abroad for the longer ones. 

"Then after he left college he had a year in America 
and he made his choice — ^as Robert planned. He de- 
cided to join in my brother's business. Now, my little 
Lisa's married — ^ dear boy! — she's very happy. He's 
wealthy too. Spenser's launched and he needs very little 
from me. So here I am, a rich woman, with more 
money than I can spend. I've always wanted to do 
something for Robert's people if I could. Your father 
was his greatest friend, more like a brother than a 
cousin. I married at nineteen, as you know, and, the 
year after, you iXrere born and I was chosen as god- 
mother. I hope you're not going to make me regret it !" 
She darted a mischievous side-long look at the thought- 
ful face so near her own. 

"Well, to cut the matter short, I've left a few things 
to you and a 'small income in my will. Anyhow, you 
won't want for bread-and-butter — ^perhaps jam! But 
lately, my dear, you've been on my mind. I'm inclined 
to think that legacies generally arrive too late. I hope 
to live a few years more and meanwhile you're getting 
on — no longer a girl — and you've no children. I'd like 
to see you enjoy my money I 

"That's why I thought about this house. You stay 



44 AUTUMN 

for far too long in town. Every woman needs change 
and to think of your life here makes me tired! So I've 
settled it. It's too late now for you to evolve brilliant 
excuses. I've told my bankers to arrange a little account 
for you with them. Do you think you can live at 'Four 
Comers' decently on four hundred a year? — pounds 
that is — I don't mean dollars!" Her laugh rang out, 
faintly triumphant. 

"Four hundred t" Deirdre gasped. "Cousin Maddie, 
it's a fortxme!" 

"Hm ! . . . Wait till you live on it. I don't want you 
to beg from Mark. But I think it's enough just for the 
summer and odd visits." Her eyes narrowed. 

Then she turned round briskly: 

"Anyhow, if you want more, you can overdraw. I'U 
see to that." 

Deirdre grasped her arm and shook it. 

"Oh, do stop — it's too absurd! I couldn't dream of 
taking it. You dear, darling, generous thing!" 

"If you don't, you'll wotmd me to the heart." 

A little silence fell between them, charged with emo- 
tion. Then the older woman went on: 

"You've the Thursby eyes — I never see you without 
recalling Robert's face. And that's another reason why 
I want to get rid of Four Comers. I can't stay in Eng- 
land long. There's no need now Spenser's home. It 
brings it all back again . . . that terrible illness — " her 
voice shook — "the knowledge I couldn't save his life — 
with all my love and all my money !" 

Deirdre's arms held her tight — this little nervous slip 
of a woman with her frail body and generous soul. 

"Is it — still — as bad as that?" she whispered the 
words. "I'm so sorry. I wish I could help you." 

"So you can. You're a dear child; you ought to be 
happy. Say you'll ag^ee to my little plan?" Deirdre 
kissed her. 

"Yes, I will. But it's too much — I can't thank you. 
I can't really take it in. . . . But if you knew how hope- 
less I've felt these last weeks — and middle-aged — ^and 
at the end of everything! And now the country. . . . 
I love it so— and a little house all my own! The 



AUTUMN 45 

peace " her voice broke on the word. "Oh ... I 

want to dance — or sing — or cry! I don't know which. 
Also to hug you !" 

She did hug her, mercilessly. 

"Goodness, child, let me go! I've only this dress to 
travel in. Here's Day with the tea." She welcomed 
the interruption gladly, herself not far from the verge 
of tears. 

"Day tried to make out you were not at home. Didn't 
you. Day? But I saw through it!" 

The maid smiled, discreetly silent. 

"You know I'm always in to you." Deirdre drew 
the tea-table nearer. "But it's so rarely that I see you. 
You never tell me when you're crossing. You come and 
go like a will-o'-the-wisp! 

"I should love to make a portrait of you, with a little 
lantern — in silver point Very fragile and elusive, luring 
mortals to destruction ! Sugar ?" 

"Please — after that! I'm glad to see, despite your 
age, your 'middle age' — " Mrs. Thursby teased her — 
"that you're still yoimg enough, my dear, to make fun 
of an old woman." 

"You, oldr Deirdre scoffed. "With a waist that 
measures eighteen inches!" 

"A trifle more. Still it's small enough to be the 
despair of my corset woman. She says, 'Waists are not 
worn, Madame,' as if one just put them on and off!" 
Mrs. Thursby sipped her tea complacently; she was 
proud of her figure. 

"Now, while I think of it, there's linen and silver 
at the cottage — ^nothing at all valuable. It's in a safe; 
V\\ give you the key. There's a caretaker who's been 
a cook. She lives in the gardener's cottage, a wee place 
at the back. It's screened from the house by a high yew 
hedge. She's a widow — I fancy the husband drank! 
She hates all men except her son. Between them they 
look after the place and I give them thirty shillings a 
week and the cottage rent free. It's understood she 
will cook and wash and do odd jobs when I'm there and 
he keeps my cabbage-patch. I think, with Day, you 
ought to managCc But turn them out if you don't like 



46 AUTUMN 

them or think you would rather make other arrange- 
ments. Only they seem respectable people." 

Her voice was so serious that Deirdre kughed. 

"A good solid background for me ! Is that the idea ? 
Virtue by proxy. I hope I shall live up to it!" 

"Only by wearing shabby clothes." Mrs. Thursby's 
eyes twinkled. "I learned that — to my cost In a vil- 
lage as primitive as Weavers, dress is closely allied with 
morals. High heels can ruin you. It's the hall-mark of 
depravity. To be quite above suspicion, honey, there 
is nothing like a mushroom hat with the brim slightly 
divorced from the crown!" 

"And gauntlet gloves two sizes too large." Deirdre 
smiled. Did you know your neighbours?" 

"The rector called and talked pew-rents. But I was 
only there a month and very busy getting fixed. Then 
Lisa was taken sick and I rushed home by the next 
boat. They really hadn't time to call — not as tipie is 
considered at Weavers. I must fly." She glanced at 
the clock. 

"But where — when — shall I see you again?" 

Deirdre tried in vain to detain her. 

"I can't say. Before I sail. I may go on to a cousin 
in Holland, or join Brenda in the Alps. ... I never 
make plkns ahead. It's not a bad name — ^'will-o'-the- 
wisp' !" 

She fastened her veil with her neat slim hands, peered 
at her face in the glass, and was off, trim and daintily 
dressed, full of suppressed energy. 

"Get to Weavers as soon as you can," she called back 
from the taxi. "You look as though you needed a 
change. Perhaps I'll come and visit you on my way 
back to New York." 

Deirdre stood, her face wistful, on the lowest step 
above the street ; then ran forward across the pavement, 
hungering for a last word. 

"I've never thanked you — ^not half enough ! Ill write. 
Are you staying at the Bristol?" 

"Yes. You'll hear from the lawyers to-morrow ex- 
plaining a very simple matter in a highly complicated 
way. Oh, by the bye, I forgot to say your cottage is 



AUTUMN 



47 



Suite close to the Hall — a stunning old place — where the 
quire lives. He has the name of being 'eccentric/ which 
sounds as though he might be human! Easily acquired 
I should think in a place where the women all look like 
trees ! Au revoir, little cousin. Write and say how you 
like Four Comers." 



CHAPTER V 

For three days Deirdre hugged her secret, with a sense 
of wonder. 

She still felt as though the dream might be rudely 
broken and she awake to the old life of empty prospects 
which included an airless summer in town. But a visit 
to the lawyer's brought full comprehension in its train. 

She was the owner of a house and mistress of four 
hundred a year I 

Meanwhile she moved about the flat, singing, dream- 
ing, weaving plots. They gilded everything she touched. 

Day watched her thoughtfully, aware of the subtle 
change in her mistress. The night when Caradoc com- 
plained bitterly that the steak was tough, relapsing into 
his surliest mood, it seemed to the anxious eyes of the 
maid that Deirdre was proof against the weapon of 
depression he forged. 

'Can't think wnat's come over her,'* Day confided 
to the cook. That buxom widow, the mother of five, 
expounded her own views on the subject. 

But the morning afterwards Deirdre broke the silence 
enshrouding Four Comers. 

She showed Day the photograph of the Turnpike 
Lodge, in a casual manner. 

"Wliat do you think of this cottage, Day?" 

The maid looked at it curiously. 

*'Yes'm?" She waited for a cue. 

"D'you like it? We're going there for the summer." 

Day's eyes opened wide. 

"It looks very nice, mimi." She hesitated. "In a 
village, mum?" 

"Yes, called Weavers; and there's a garden at the 
back, with a tiny orchard and apple trees. It stands at 
the comer of four roads — quite in the country, miles 
from a town." Her cheeks were warm, and her eyes 
sparkled 

4« 



AUTUMN 49 

But Day looked a little doubtful. 

"Well— what is it?" Deirdre smiled. 

"I was thinking, mum. Would there be any shops?" 

"I don't know. I suppose a few. Anyway the market 
town, Kilby, is only two stations off." 

"Kilby, mum. You don't say so ! My father's mother, 
she come from there. There's a thea)rter and barracks, 
too. We'd have no trouble about the food." 

"Food!" Deirdre laughed aloud. "We're not going 
to fuss about food. Thank goodness," she gave a sigh, 
"I can eat anything." 

"Oh, I see, mum," Day smiled. "Then the master's 
not coming too?" 

"No, that is," she hesitated. "I believe his holiday 
is arranged. He's going golfing with some friends. The 
fact is. Day, this cottage is mine; it was Mrs. Thursby's 
birthday present." 

Day looked staggered. 

'Yours, mum? For the summer?" she suggested. 

'No — for good! A little place to run down to when 
I'm tired. Isn't it splendid of Mrs. Thursby? It's 
furnished, too, with linen and silver ; and I shall be quite 
independent She's making me a good allowance." 

Day, utterly taken aback, caught the infection of 
Deirdre's mood. 

"She's an angel, mum I and you deserve it — every bit — 
working here . . . and no pleasures . . . and the mas- 
ter's moods — I'm sorry, mum." 

She pulled herself up, foreseeing reproof and added: 

"When do you go there, mum?" 

"We, Of course you're coming too !" Deirdre caught 
the wistful inquiry in the big grey eyes. "Why — what 
did you think? That I was going to leave you here?" 

Day beamed. 

"Well, mum, I hoped not I'll do my best. It looks 
an easy place to work." She glanced again at the 
photograph. "There wouldn't be many stairs, mum. 
About when shall we be oflf?" 

"I'm afraid we can't go just yet, though I'm dying 
to see it!" Deirdre laughed. "We shall have to wait 
till August, Day, when Mr. Caradoc leaves town. Now, 






so AUTUMN 

get me my old tea-gown." Again her thoughts moved 
ahead. "It's just Ae thing for the country! I shall 
wear out all mv shabby clothes." She went on, dream- 
ily, as the maia fastened the worn hooks, "It's so lovely 
to know there's a place which I can always count upon. 
In the country, too, with no noise or fuss. Somewhere 
to feel there's peace and rest." 

Several times in the long years of her married life 
she had faced the thought of separation from Caradoc 
— both temporarv and complete. But always when her 
hot rebellion had given place to sober reflection she had 
realized that the way was barred by circumstance and 
her slender resources. 

When her father died she had found herself in pos- 
session of a hundred a year. But she could not support 
herself on this, even with the help of her painting. She 
knew that the talent she possessed was of little market- 
able value, and she shrank from the thought of return- 
ing home — a failure! — to b^ for charity. 

Her widowed mother passed her days in permanent 
rooms at a Brighton hotel. She declared it was cheaper 
than a house and allowed her a surplus to keep on her 
carriage. 

The mother and daughter had little in common, though 
when they met — a rare occurrence — they felt the old 
claim of affection. 

At long intervals Deirdrc spent a week with her parent 
at Brighton. But she knew that she played no part in 
her life. She was no necessity to her mother in the way 
of love or companionship. Mrs. Thursby drove her out 
to call on her large circle of friends, asked her advice 
on questions of dress, and confided her passing worries 
to her. 

But even then Deirdre felt she disturbed the tenour of 
her ways, and her mother's ways were not her own. 
They lacked the bond of a common outlook. 

For Deirdre knew that the older woman condemned 
the younger's attitude towards her husband. The mar- 
riage had proved a disappointment, and although Mrs. 
Thursby pitied her daughter, she deemed her weak and 
lacking in pride. 



AUTUMN 51 

"You make a gfreat mistake, my dear, in giving in to 
Mark's temper. You should hold your own and teach 
him a lesson." 

This was a favourite dictum of hers. 

Nothing could make her realize that to live in a state 
of perpetual revolt with constant scenes and recrimina- 
tions was to aggravate the situation. 

She, herself, had been adored by her kind-hearted, 
gentle husband. A "scene" with him was a foregone 
triumph, backed by a knowledge of his nature. He wor- 
shipped the pretty, faded woman and remained her lover 
until his death. 

She could not — ^would not — understand that Caradoc, 
unmoved by tears, would retaliate by a stony silence for 
days on end until the nerve of the younger woman was 
worn to shreds. But beyond this, her maternal advice 
was never enforced by practical aid. She did not open 
her arms to her daughter and offer a home as a refuge. 

And Deirdre reasoned to herself: 

"At least I have a claim on Mark. He is bound to 
support me as his wife. Whereas if I went bapk to 
Mamma I should feel that the help she was giving me 
was curtailing her little pleasures. I should end by be- 
coming an incubus!'' 

So on her rare visits to Brighton she avoided as far 
as possible all reference to her husband. She threw 
herself into her mother's life — ^the bazaar of the moment, 
the round of teas — and parted from her lovingly but 
with the sure intuition that her parent breathed a sigh 
of relief, conscious of a duty performed. 

Mrs. Thursby would drive her up to the station in 
her little brougham, stop on the way for a bunch of 
flowers or a basket of grapes, kiss her fondly, with a 
faint suspicion of tears in her eyes and the inevitable 
remaric : 

"Well, I'm sure you're looking much better for your 
little change, Deirdre. I wish, my dear, I could keep 
you with me. If only I had a house ! But you know 
how expensive everything is in an hotel. Still I'm 
very glad. . . . And now I shall have to economise. 
Your old mother is not well off, but always ready to 



52 AUTUMN 

help her child. You know that, darling, don't you?** 
Then, as the train moved out, a last word — ^"Be firm 
with Mark !" 

Firm? How can the caged bird be "firm" with the 
hand that bars the door? Refuse to sing? — when the 
master's ears are deaf to its sweetest note. . . . 

Thus the lonely woman learnt the philosophy of mar- 
ried life : to console herself for empty days with the rare 
hours of a man's love. 

Often she wished that she herself could thrust Mark 
out of her heart But she knew that at odd poignant 
moments, despite his faults, she was fond of her hus- 
band. 

Love is outside the laws of logic. It is elemental — 
as free as the wind. And to some rare natures it is 
deathless. Deirdre knew this, to her cost. 

Something of this passed through her mind as she 
waited by the open window for Mark to return in time 
for dinner. But now the burden seemed strangely light 
with the vision of far away Four Comers. She held 
at last the power to be "firm." When his temper out- 
raged her sense of pride she could go away and leave 
him to bear the material drawbacks of her absence, to 
miss — ^at least — the housekeeper! 

The clock on the mantelpiece struck eight; then as 
she watched it anxiously the hands moved on — 3, quarter 
past. Day came in with a long face. 

"Do you think, mtmi, I'd best serve dinner? Cook 
says it's getting spoilt." She broke off as the telephone 
rang. "Perhaps that's the master, mum." 

"I'll see." Deirdre answered the call. 

"Yes? Is that you, Mark?" 

A voice came back. 

I'm dining out." There was no excuse. 
'You can dish up," said Deirdre. She felt a slight 
disappointment. She had ordered a favourite dish of 
Mark's and bought fresh flowers for the table, conscious 
of the rise in her fortune. His voice had sounded ir- 
ritable. 

"It can't be helped," she smiled again. "But I 
wanted to talk to him this evening. I hope he's not 



"J'- 

if 



AUTUMN 53 

been losing money." She recalled a confession of his 
on the night of her birthday — sl recent speculation, the 
result of a "sound tip" at the club, which had not ful- 
filled its expectations! She dined in solitary state and 
settled down to some needlework. At eleven o'clock 
she heard his step and folded the neat pile of mending. 

Caradoc came in scowling. 

"You up?" his voice was hoarse. "It's just as well. 
Fve something to say." 

He moved across to his writing-table and gathered 
up a small pile of tradesmen's books that lay there, 
together with a bill for light. 

Deirdre had no housekeeping money, although she 
had often pleaded for it. Mark gave her a cheque each 
month after reviewing the various items. She learned 
to dread this ceremony and christened it "the Judgment 
Hour." 

Now he stood before her chair, his face black and 
drawn with anger, the books held out to her in hands 
that shook visibly. 

"You'll have to stop this extravagance! I looked 
through these before I left. The way we live — " his 
lips curled — "you'd think I was a millionaire! And 
there's never anything fit to eat." A paper fluttered to 
the floor. He picked it up and started afresh. "Look 
at this bill for electric light!" 

"Well," she smiled back calmly, "/ don't bum it. How 
should I? I go to bed at ten o'clock most evenings 
and so do the servants. It's you who are late. As for 
the food, I do my best to economise, but it's always 
dearer in the season." 

"You shouldn't order it then, that's all ! See here !" 
He turned the pages to where a slip lay. "Turbot — ^at 
2/6 a lb. D'you call that good management?" 

She looked him straight between the eyes. 

"Come, Mark — do be just. You know you asked for 
it yourself. You say you can't eat brill or plaice or in 
fact anything cheap. And it's the same with every- 
thing. You won't touch made-up dishes. You always 
want the very best And you have to pay for it in 
thU world!" 



54 AUTUMN 

"Have If He slammed the books down on the table 
violently. "It's pay, pay, all the time. And what do / 
get out of it? I wish to God Fd never married I I was 
all right as a bachelor." 

There came a tense little silence. Then Deirdrc rose 
to her feet 

"You mean that?" Her eyes narrowed. All the 
accumulated slights and bitter speeches of years rose 
up, capped by tShis fresh insult 

"Yes, I do. I'm sick of it! All I ask is a peaceful 
life" (the humour of this missed them both!) "instead 
of being pestered with ruinous bills and to come home to 
your nagging!" 

She came a step nearer to him. 

"You're sure of that, are you, Mark ?" Her voice was 
quiet and deadly cold. "You would sooner return to 
your bachelor davs?" 

"No such luck!" Caradoc shouted. He had reached 
the climax of his rage and as the words rang through 
the room a sudden doubt fell on him, the hint of the 
coming reaction. 

"Very well. I shall go away." 

Was this Deirdre threatening him? He felt faintly 
stunned by it, but the bully in him stirred anew. 

"You can go away — and stay away !" 

"Yes," said Deirdre, "I will." 

She moved oflF towards the door, white-faced but her 
head high. 
. "To your mother, I suppose?" 

A faint sneer was in his voice and she guessed his 
thought. It would mean a week — ^at most! Full well 
he knew how she was placed. 

"No!" She turned; her violet eyes were dark with 
more than scorn and anger. A hint of triumph was in 
their depths. Subconsciously it puzzled Mark. 

"I shall not come back — if you mean that — ^nor trouble 
you for any money." 

He broke in impatiently. 

"What rot! Where are you going?" 

Had she shewn a hint of indecision he would have 
barred her passage out But she did not even turn her head. 



AUTUMN 



55 



"That," she said, "is my own affair." 

He watched her pass through the doorway, opened 
his lips, then closed them again, though his heart was 
calling, "Deirdre!" 

Her step faded down the passage, then he heard a 
key turn. Silence weighed upon the flat 

"Well — ^I'm damned 1" said Caradoc 



CHAPTER VI 

Deirdre stood at the open door of her cottage drinking 
in the air. The evening had brought a cool breeze. It 
sang through the high tops of the trees with a Quivering 
song like the far-off note of a violin with muted strings. 

The road before her rose steeply with a curve — in 
itself a beautiful thing — to the point where sky and hill 
met, and, as if the line should be carried on, the Church 
spire pointed up to the moon, sailing above in a clear 
white light. On the blue cloak of the distant heavens, 
stars shone like golden dew and, beneath, the earth 
seemed to lie content, like a tired but happy child, 
asleep. 

On either side of the winding road, cottages broke 
the vista of fields. No lights flickered out, for Weavers 
believed in "early to bed." The doors and windows were 
closely shut and silence reigned absolute save for the 
last chirp of a bird or a rustle in the dusty hedge. 

Deirdre glanced over her shoulder. 

"Day !" 

The maid answered the call. 

"I'm going out for a little walk — exploring! Don't 
lock the door." 

"You won't go far, mum? There might be tramps." 

Deirdre laughed. "I'll take a stick. Get me my hat, 
there's a good soul! I can't stay in on a night like 
this." 

Day obeyed reluctantly. 

"You'll not go near the farm, mum? Mrs. Slack's 
been telling me there's a savage dog and it's loose at 
night. You wouldn't like me to come too?" 

"D'you want to?" 

"Well, mum — ^yes and no! There's that big box half 
unpacked. . . . Hadn't you better tell me, mum, where 
you'd like the last things to go?" 

"No. I'm not to be caught like that !" Her mistress 

56 




AUTUMN 57 

smiled. ''You finish it I shall be back in half an 
hour." She pinned on her hat and sallied forth. 

Avoiding the main road that ran past the larger part 
of her new domain, she turned to the right up a narrow 
lane, where the cottages soon came to an end. 

The last dwelling was a farm, set back, with a cobble- 
stone yard. The long sloping roof of the bam was 
silhouetted against the sky, with a frayed edge denoting 
thatchy and nearer the ground, indistinct, was a huddled 
group of smaller sheds, from which came plaintively the 
voice of a cow lamenting the loss of its calf. 

Beyond this, the lonely lane was shadowed by woods 
on either side, and Deirdre paused to lean over a gate 
where a cart-track started across the fields, bordered by 
a straggling hedge. 

A puff of wind blew in her face, invitingly. She 
opened the gate, passed through it and followed the 
path with its deep ruts for a hundred yards to find that 
it took a sharp turn where it met a high wall of stone 
and stretched away to the right, shaded by tall trees 
above. 

She went on, conscious now of the faint sweet smell 
of leaves and bracken. Branches bent over the wall and 
between the interstices of the stones ground ivy and 
ferns clustered. The hemlock grew tall and rank above 
a ditch where a fine brown thread of water trickled. On 
her right were flat fields filled with turnips. 

A bat circled down on her path. Deirdre watched it 
beating the air with its leathery wings and caught its 
cry, shrill and faint, somehow uncanny. She recalled 
the fact that many people with ears attuned to a lower 
pitch find the note inaudible. It stirred her vivid imag- 
ination. 

"And beyond that," she thought aloud, "who can 
tell what music there is ! Myriads of tiny voices. Per- 
haps the flowers talk . . . and the trees? . . . All the 
faint far-off sounds which, blent together, we call silence." 

The wall still lengthened out, grey and massive, slightly 
curved. Looking back she saw now that the first straight 
n)ad was hidden by it. 

"It runs in a wide circle," she thought, slightly in- 



S8 AUTUMN 

trigued by this botindary line unbroken by a single gate. 
"There must be an entrance somewhere soon." 

Almost as she said the words she saw in the distance 
a break in the stones and quickened her steps till she 
came to a gate of close boards painted blue, that formed 
two doors, wide enough to admit a cart when both 
were opened. 

She stopped, baffled. There was no chink through 
which she could peer and no latch; but a rusty key- 
hole rewarded her search. 

The track swerved round into the wood, so firmly 
guarded from trespassers. Beyond the gate a mighty 
oak stood banished from its friends inside. In its 
shadow something moved and snorted, startling Deirdre. 

Then she saw it was a horse, cropping at the rank 
grass. It was saddled, its bridle looped across a low 
branch. It raised its head and stared at her with its 
big brown eyes. 

"You beautiful creature !" She stretched out her hand 
and stroked the silky quivering neck, which curved round 
imder her touch, recognising a friendly spirit "What 
a funny place to find you in !" 

She looked at it curiously, at the clean lec^ and 
powerful quarters, a big bay with one white sock. 

"I wonder where your master is ? In the wood ?" But 
the horse, satisfied, returned to its interrupted meal, tear- 
ing the grass with its strong square teeth. 

Deirdre went back to the door. Stooping down, she 
peered through the keyhole. At first the dark mass of 
undergrowth seemed without any definite form. Then 
she caught a flutter of white. Her vision cleared. It 
was a dress. In a narrow glade between the trees she 
could see dimly two figures stand, shadowy and close 
together and she caught the faint murmur of voices. 

Suddenly she started back with an absurd sense of 
shame. Through the silence — ^pregnant, distinct— came 
the unmistakable sound of a kiss! 

Lovers ! And what a night for it : the moonlight and 
the pagan woods. . . . 

She turned round deliberately and retraced her steps 
in a panic 



AUTUMN 59 

"I mustn't be caught spying here." Her cheeks flushed 
at the bare thought. 

Youth and love! ... In sympathy she left them to 
their golden hour. 

"For it doesn't last," she said to the night wistfully. 
Then she smiled. "But there must be other things in 
life." Again she thrust away the past. 

She had reached the spot where the road branched 
off when she heard the sotmd of trotting hoofs. She 
looked back. There was no one in sight and following 
up her original thought she glanced round for a hiding- 
pbce. 

A knot of elders stood where the brook widened be- 
neath the shade of the wall. Hurriedly she jiunped the 
stream and drew herself behind this cover. 

"I should like to see the cavalier," she decided, with 
a sense of adventure, and parting the leaves in front of 
her face she found a loophole and waited, curious. 

The horse appeared round the curve, and came rap- 
idly down the track. 

She could make out the rider now, though the trees 
obscured the light above. 

He sat loosely in his saddle, with the careless ease 
of a hunting man which has none of the stiff skill of the 
soldier and yet suggests supreme control. She caught 
a glimpse of a long face with a dark moustache and 
prominent chin. His hat was jammed down over his 
eyes, his body suggested lean strength. 

But he did not pass her. Before he reached the bend 
in the road he swerved aside into the field where a 
ploughed patch divided the turnips from the clover. 

There to Deirdre's amazement he wheeled round and 
set the bay at the straggling hedge on her right. 

It rose easily. In a flash she saw rider and horse out- 
lined in a dark mass against the sky. Then they were 
gone. Holding her breath she caught the soft thud of 
hoofs over the adjacent meadow and, faint, receding, 
the steady rhythm of a gallop that soon died away. 

She stole out, full of wonder. 

"Against the moonlight it looked like a centaur!" 
The Siought brought a smile to her lips. She came to 



6o AUTUMN 

the thorn-clad gap in the hedge which the rider had 
chosen and peered over. 

"No — not a sign of them I I wonder why he vanished 
that way?" Intuition supplied the reason. "He wanted 
to avoid the village. That was it — a clandestine meeting ! 
I wish now I had seen the girl." 

She walked on thoughtfully, full of this sudden 
glimpse of romance. 

"It's a good thing, after all, that we can't hear the 
speech of the trees ! I'm sure some of those ancient oaks 
are fearful gossips. You've only to watch the way they 
bend and listen and sigh. Well, I'm glad I came out 
to-night." 

As she passed the latched gate that led from the lane 
to her garden, a sudden breeze wafted across a fragrant 
scent into her face. 

"Sweet-brier!" She drew a breath full of content 
and paused to gaze up at the cottage before she entered. 

"My very own !" Her voice was tender. Already she 
loved Four Corners. 

In the hall which had once been the living-room, supper 
was laid on the gate-legged table, a frugal meal but 
flanked by a small bottle of wine — Day's forethought. 

This suggested a new idea. She filled a glass to the 
brim and passed out into the garden. 

On either side of the cinder path that led to the 
orchard was a border of straggling flowers. Tobacco 
plants, white-faced, stared at her like a crowd of pier- 
rots. Behind these, sunflowers and hollyhocks made 
a dark background against the moonlight. 

With a serious face Deirdre chose an open space 
flanked by a well where forget-me-nots were clustered, 
asleep. 

"Libation to the high gods!" She poured the wine 
on to the soil. "Gods of the hearth and the fruitful earth, 
bless this homestead and prosper it!" 

She stood there smiling for a minute, feeling the warm 
silence around steal nearer like a cloak. 

Then a voice startled her. 

"Now, mum — do come in I You'll be catching cold 
in that damp." 




CHAPTER VII 

"There's only tacks at a penny the box. P'raps Mr. 
Iggs could oblige you. 'E's the carpenter, mam, just 
over the 'ill — the second cottage to your left." 

So spoke the local Whiteley, a stout, voluble, bustling 
body, from behind a counter piled high with an amazing 
stodc of goods. "We keeps most things" — she nodded 
at Deirdre with an air of wisdom — "but not nails. We 
could always get them for you, mam, from Kilby, if you 
cared to wait?" 

But Mrs. Caradoc had learnt what "waiting" meant 
in the sleepy village. 

"I think I'll try the carpenter." She gathered up 
her purchases and retreated into the dusty road. 

Mrs. Potter bustled out after her, importantly. 

"It's straight up past the church — ^you can't miss it. 
Good day, mam." 

She was not averse to shewing the neighbours that 
she was "on terms" with the new-comer. 

Her shrewd eyes had summed up the latter as a "lady 
bom and quiet-spoken and means to deal in the village." 

This was her dictum later on to folk who dropped in 
casually for a reel of cotton or "quarter of tea" to gather 
gossip at first hand. 

Deirdre trudged up the hill in the midday heat, came 
to the brow, and found herself, with a sigh of relief, 
faced with the golden haze of the valley. 

She paused for a moment to drink it in: the wide 
expanse of open country, well wooded, deliciously green, 
dotted by farmsteads and little hamlets strung on the 
thread of a winding road. 

Beneath her a quarry gleamed, chalk-white. She 
could see, like toys, the tiny trucks and figures of men, 
restless as ants, working in the huge gap. A miniature 
train crawled along a single line, puffing out a column of 

6i 



62 AUTUMN 

smoke. This hung suspended in the air above the tree- 
tops like cotton wool, as the engine slipped into a tun- 
nel and Deirdre, recalled from her dream — a confused 
idea of the size of the world and the Lilliputian propor- 
tion of man — crossed the road and made her way to a 
group of little thatched houses. 

One of them had a long shed attached to it where a 
stack of wood and scattered shavings suggested that this 
was her destination. 

She tapped at the door. No response. 

Then a watchful neighbour appeared on the scene 
and leaned over the boundary hedge. 

"Mr. 'Iggs" was away for the day. Would the lady 
leave a message? 

Deirdre thanked her, but shook her head. Her errand 
was of no importance. 

The neighbour stared at her curiously. 

"If it's fer work, 'e'd like to know." She paused, then 
made a random shot "From 'Four Comers/ isn't it, 
mum ?" 

"Yes." Deirdre felt amused. She guessed how 
quickly news travelled in the village and that her sud- 
den arrival had formed a topic for discussion. 

But she did not care for the woman's face; so, pres- 
ently she retraced her steps, with one last glance at the 
drowsy valley. 

The sun poured down upon her head and when she 
came abreast with the church, the shelter of the fine 
old trees lured her into the quiet churchyard. 

She sauntered up the paved path, where yews dipped 
over the graves, with their time-stained tombstones 
which, here and there, had sunk almost out of sight. 

As she came to the angle of the porch a figure rose 
by the side of a mound — that of a tall, angular woman 
with shrewd, grey eyes and a tight mouth. 

It was Mrs. Slack, the widow who lived in the gar- 
dener's cottage and acted as cook. She stood there, very 
grim and erect, with something faintly defiant about 
her. 

Deirdre, glancing at the grave, saw that a fresh btmch 
of flowers had been tightly wedged in a clean jam pot 



AUTUMN 63 

and placed beneath the new head-stone on which the 
name appeared, "John Slack," followed by the familiar 
text anent the Lord's giving and taking. 

"Good-day !" She nodded pleasantly as she came up 
to the still figure. 

Mrs. Slack's tense face relaxed. 

"I just slipped away, mum, for 'alf an hour — seeing 
as the lunch were cold. It's the day 'e were buried, 
mum." She never alluded to her husband save by this 
pr^;nant pronoun. 

Deirdre looked sympathetic. 

"I hope I haven't disturbed you," she murmured. The 
woman was free to come and go as she liked between 
the hours for meals. 

"No, mum, I've finished now." Sombrely she stared 
down at the roughly clipped and faded grass, bleached 
in the shadow of the trees, and the flattened nosegay of 
marigolds edged round with a frill of ferns. "No one 
can say I forgets my duty — dead or alive." 

It was like a challenge. 

Deirdre felt slightly nonplussed. 

"One can see that — ^the flowers look nice. It must 
be a sad day for you." 

"Sad?" The woman caught her up with a mirthless 
laugh. "'E's better there! 'E can't do no more mis- 
chief." She wiped the rusty scissors she held. 

Deirdre's thoughts moved quickly. She remembered 
now some words of Day concerning this woman's mar- 
ried life and the birth of her child, the shambling youth 
with vacant eyes, who minded the garden. 

She suspected the son of being half-witted, yet she 
knew he was his mother's joy. Rather nervously now 
she offered the fragment of consolation : 

"You have your boy." 

The woman nodded. 

"Yes, mum — and a good son. 'E's not quick, as you 
might say, but steady.' Her face clouded again. "And 
if it 'adn't been for 'im — " it was evident she referred 
to the dead — " 'e'd 'ave stood a better chance, mum." 
She broke off as a tall man in clerical dress came briskly 
out of the church porch. 



64 AUTUMN 

"Good-morning!" He nodded to Mrs. Slack and 
glanced sideways at the stranger. 

Deirdre saw a thin brown face, heavily lined, with sad 
dark eyes under rather heavy brows. 

An impulse moved her to speak to him. 

"I wonder — is the church open ? Can one see it on a 
week-day ?" 

The Rector stopped courteously. 

"Certainly. The usual hours are from two to four, 
but since I'm here " 

Deirdre broke in, protesting: 

"Oh, but I mustn't trouble you. I can come again 
in the afternoon. It's an old church, isn't it?" 

"In parts — ^the Mesurier chapel, and the east wall — 
the roof's modem. Some of the oak is rather fine — ^the 
squire's pew and the choir stalls. Won't you let me 
show it to you?" 

"You're very kind," said Deirdre. "I'm so fond of 
old churches and this one, of course, interests me, as 
I've just come to live at Weavers. At Four Comers — 
I'm Mrs. Caradoc." 

"Ah! ... I heard of your arrival." The Rector 
smiled. "In this small world a stranger is a local event 
Forgive me a minute, and then, if I may, I'll show you 
the tomb — the Mesurier tomb— which we consider our 
greatest treasure." 

Mrs. Slack had drifted off and the Rector, striding 
after her, caught her up near the gate. 

"There's a Mother's Meeting to-morrow at three — I 
hope you'll be there." His deep voice floated back to 
Deirdre. "I'm glad to see you've been tidying up your 
husband's grave." 

The woman turned, her face hard and resentful. 

"Now, sir, you know what I thinks! But I won't 
have the neighbours talking." 

"I know what you say — and what you've suffered." 

They moved on out of earshot. Deirdre guessed that 
the thin grave man was pleading forgiveness for the 
dead. 

"Poor soul!" she said to herself. "I don't expect he 
understands. She's gone through some bitter trouble 



AUTUMN 65 

and is still a rebel. I rather like her. At any rate she's 
not a humbug." 

After a space the Rector rejoined her. 

"Now, Mrs. Caradoc, I warn you beforehand to pull 
me up if I tire you. My church is my hobby — ^by which 
I mean its history I" 

The way in which he altered the phrase revealed a 
certain sense of htmiour. 

"By the way," he said as he fitted the key in the 
heavy door, "your v name is familiar. Years ago when 
I was a curate at Tiphook — do you know the place — 
there was a Mrs. Caradoc who lived at the manor 
house." 

"No— really?" Deirdre smiled. "That was my 
mother-in-law. She died some time before my mar- 
riage. My husband was her only son." 

"You don't say so ? A small world. She was a charm- 
ing old lady of the old school. I remember your hus- 
band; tall and fair, very good-looking; an architect — 
am I right?" 

"Yes. Deirdre passed through into the cool silent 
church. 

The Rector followed and lowering his voice, ran on : 

"A pity he's not with you to-day to give us the benefit 
of his knowledge. He will appreciate the Hall — where 
the Squire lives — a lovely old place and in wonderful 
preservation." 

Deirdre stared straight ahead. 

"He can't leave London very often — he's too busy." 
She hated herself for this evasion of the truth, but saw 
the pitfall under her feet. For the first time it flashed 
across her that her lonely state might be misconstrued. 
She wished from the depths of her heart that the Rector 
had not knpwn her mother-in-law. 

For half an hour they wandered round the little 
church, the clerg3rman eager to shew his guest the scanty 
treasures that Time had spared, until they came to a 
side chapel, behind the Squire's high oak pew. 

Under a narrow stained window Deirdre saw the fa- 
mous tomb. Two figures finely carved rested on a sar- 
cophagus — B. knight in armour with, by his side, his 



66 AUTUMN 

"ladye," prim and closely coifFed. Their feet were 
propped against a cushion and beyond this was stretched 
a hound — its muzzle thrust out on its paws. 

Deirdre studied the inscription setting forth the mani- 
fold virtues of "Rollo Mesurier and Ann hys wyfe/' 
whose "sober and godly lyves" had been rewarded by 
thirteen children. 

The light from above, rose-tinted, poured down on 
the still forms, softening them to the semblance of sleep. 
It brought back into her mind a long-forgotten fragment 
of verse: 

Like sculptured effigies they might be seen 
Upon their marriage tomb, the sword t3etween; 
Each wishing for the sword tiiat severs all. 

She wondered dimly if these two had loved and suf- 
fered and persevered, conscious of failure, upheld by 
pride, to lie together in their death. 

"It's much more honest to break away," she stifled 
the faint regret in her heart, "but I'm not sure if it's 
more courageous. . . . There's something grand in the 
old notions — though to modems it seems to be living 
a lie." 

Outside the church she asked a question. "Is the 
Squire married? — the present one?" 

rrhe Rector glanced at her, surprised. Her voice had 
a curious thrill in it. G)nscious of this, she explained 
quickly. 

"I was thinking of 'Rollo and Ann hys wyfe.' Some- 
how they ought to have been the last. They're too fine 
for a modem contrast." 

"You think so?" He smiled gravely. "The present 
man is a *Rollo' too — it's a family name. He's not unlike 
his ancestor. A strong type, isn't it?" Then he an- 
swered her first question. "His wife is dead — a sad 
affair. . . ." He hesitated and went on, "There's one 
daughter but no son. Of course he's young and mav 
marry again." He glanced at Deirdre humorously. "It 
will be his own fault if he doesn't! But so far he has 
done his best to disappoint the local hopes. He's a curi- 



AUTUMN 67 

ous fellow in many ways, quite unlike the old Squire. 
He doesn't hunt and he doesn't shoot. His one hobby 
is gardening. He admits candidly that he hates society 
in any form. Personally I find him charming — extremely 
well-read and a witty talker. He's most generous in 
the village but he loathes form and ceremony; in fact, 
a Bohemian to the core !" 

"He sounds nice!" Deirdre laughed as they paused 
outside the rectory gates. "A man who leads his own 
life and is not botmd by convention." 

The Rector gave her a shrewd glance. 

"It is sometimes a little dangerous to ignore the opin- 
ion of the world." He balanced the words carefully. 
"Though occasionally one meets a man who is moved 
to this attitude through genius. In other cases it often 
hides a supreme form of egotism." 

"I wonder!" Deirdre's smile faded. 

The Rector became a shade sententious. 

"To live entirely for oneself rarely brings happiness. 
One must not forget the weaker brethren for whom 
the social rules are framed." 

"But don't you think — " her eyes were wistful — "that 
if one is really true to one's self and honest one can 
shape one's life apart from the world, without hurting 
others ?" 

He did not answer her at once. He guessed that the 
words were not lightly spoken and, meeting her glance, 
a sudden spark of sympathy quickened in his own. 

"Very few lives," he said, are not bound up with 
outside ones. It becomes a question of influence. I'm 
inclined to think that to waste one's powers in this direc- 
tion through solitude is almost as sad as to squander 
them without thought. Do you catch my meaning? It's 
a case of the 'buried talent' again." 

"Hullo, Gage!" a voice broke through the Rector's 
speech trenchantly. 

Deirdre turned at the sound of hoofs trotting towards 
them down the drive. She saw a man on a big bay 
horse, waving his crop to attract attention. He drew 
rein in the gateway. 

"I've just called at your place with a note from 



68 AUTUMN 

Meg for your wife. I hear she's away — staying at Kilby 
— ^pot-hunting I" He laughed gaily. "What a champion 
player she is ! I suppose she'll be there till the tourna- 
ment's over?" 

"Yes, Fm afraid so." The Rector nodded. "The 
worst of it is that my organist's ill and I've no one 
now to take his place. I was thinking of you. . . ." He 
saw that the rider was eyeing the pretty woman beside 
him. With a view to a useful partisan he introduced 
Mrs. Caradoc to "Mr. Qiristopher Pontefract" and add- 
ed jocosely to the lady : 

"The musical genius of these parts." 

"Oh, come now I" the rider protested. "Don't you 
believe half he says. He's only longing to foist his choir 
on to me — ^that's his dodge! No, Gage, I'm not to be 
snared. I'm going fishing next Sunday." His long face, 
slightly tmderhung and barred by a short dark moustache, 
was mischievous and Deirdre smiled. 

"I only wish I could play myself." She glanced down 
as she spoke. The horse was pawing up the gravel and 
she recognised the white sock, ("u is the centaur — I 
thought so. He little guesses I saw him last night") 

She felt Pontefracts hazel eyes studying her and 
looked up, as the Rector began to speak again. 

"I only meant for the morning service." 

"Only!" Pontefract chuckled. He glanced down at 
the newcomer, approving her clear and warm-toned skin. 

"Now, Mrs. Caradoc, you shall have the casting vote. 
Behold a very nervous man asked to exhibit his ignorance 
to the whole of the village that's known him from youth. 
Likewise the tyrant, who stoops to flatter! What shall 
I do?" He waited, smiling. 

"I must think." Deirdre glanced from one to the 
other, her face demure. "Why not eflFect a compromise ? 
Play the organ in the morning and stroll by the river 
later on. The fish will be rising better then !" 

"Ha, ha!" the young man laughed. "A perfect Solo- 
mon, isn't she, Gage? A punishment for both of us. 
All the time I'm pulling out those confounded stops 
you'll understand that it's a bribe to let me go and tickle 
the trout — Sabbath-breaking I Very well, f agree. To 



AUTUMN 69 

one service — not more. It will do that old harmonium 
good to feel Miss Sophie's mittened hands caressing 
Sie notes at Evensong. You fish yourself?" He re- 
turned to Deirdre. 

"I used to — ^when I was a girl." 

*'And you're living in these parts now?" The infer- 
ence was obvious. 

There was about him a savour of youth and high 
spirits, very infectious. 

"I keep the Turnpike." Her eyes danced. 

The Rector explained ponderously. 

"Mrs. Caradoc has taken Four Comers — at the cross- 
roads — you know the place?" Pontefract nodded. 

"Rather ! A pal of mine had it once as a hunting box. 
He added on the cottages — awfully snug. I should think 
I dol Many a jolly night I've spent there; that room, 
you know, with windows each way. A man I knew — 3, 
medical student — had a skeleton and we rigged it up on a 
gibbet iust at the fork of the road and frightened half 
the village to fits. Next time I'm passing that way I 
shall stop and pay toll — if it's permitted?" 

Deirdre laughingly acquiesced, but, as she did so, some- 
thing warned her — a stiffening in the Rector's attitude. 

It puzzled her and a faint flush rose to her cheeks as 
she turned to him. 

"It's lunch time — I must be going. Good-bye, and thank 
you so much for showing me that dear old church." She 
glanced up at Pontefract, holding in his restless horse, 
with a parting nod and was moving off when the Rector 
checked her. 

"One minute 1" He smiled kindly. "Are you quite 
settled in now? When my wife comes back from Kilby 
next week, I know she would like to call on you." 

"I shall be very pleased," said Deirdre. 

The Rector, acting clumsily, delivered himself of an 
"afterthought." 

"Oh, by the way, Pontefract, I quite forgot to ask 
after yours. I hope Mrs. Chris has got over her 
cold?" 

"Thanks — she's all right." The rider touched his 
horse carelessly with his heeL 



JO 



AUTUMN 



In the little battle that ensued Deirdre departed, 
thoughtful. 

A married man ! All the fresh romance of that scene 
in the wood was shadowed now. It seemed to cast a 
sinister cloud over the meeting with this new and attrac- 
tive acquaintance of hers, with his masterful face and 
laughing eyes. 

"I must have made a mistake," she thought. "He 
doesn't look that sort of man. And yet — I'm sure that 
was the horse. . . ." 

She walked on, puzzling it out. Again she saw the 
pair of lovers, the girl's white arms straining up under 
the darkness of the trees, and caught the echo of their 
kiss. 

That furtive, headlong gallop home. . . . 

She frowned as she reached the Turnpike Lodge. 

"Perhaps," she mused, '*he has a brother — very like 
him — another 'centaur'!" Instinctively the thought fol- 
lowed, "But morals were not their strongest point!" 



CHAPTER VIII 

"My dear child," wrote Mrs. Thursby, "I am glad to hear 
you are happy at Weavers, but of course your news was 
a great surprise and I must admit that I feel a little hurt 
by your secrecy in the matter. Madeline seems to have 
been most generous — ^in her usual impulsive, eccentric 
way I As you know, we had never much in common, and 
I do not care for Americans. Their restlessness and 
modem notions on marriage (I allude to divorce) are 
lacking, to my mind, in dignity. I think it would have 
been far wiser had she consulted me from the start 
However, I will not go into that. What makes me anx- 
ious in your letter is your present attitude towards Mark. 
Do you intend to stay at Weavers, or is it only a short 
separation ? 

"Of course, my child, you are married to him for 
'better and worse/ and though, as you know, I have al- 
ways advised you to be firm, it is never wise to leave a 
husband too long to his own devices. 

"You do not say what this 'allowance' from your 
Cousin Maddie really amounts to or if it is sufficient 
for you to live on, in case of a separation. You should 
think of this seriously before you take definite steps. 

"You know exactly how I am placed and that although 
from time to time — ^by dint of constant economy — I might 
send you a small present, I am not now in a position to 
do more for one of my children, although they are my 
first thought. 

"My doctor tells me I must go again to Gretchenbad 
this year. It is a necessity, not a pleasure. My health is 
not what it used to be. 

"I shall probably start in a fortnight's time, but before 
then I hope you will write and give me your full confi- 
dence. I think you owe this to your mother. 

"I am having a good deal of trouble just now, as my 
new maid gave me notice, and it really is most annoying 

l7i 



J2 AUTUMN 

to take a stranger with me abroad. I was going to ask 

?ou to look about in London, but since you are not there, 
shall have to bear my own burden. It makes me feel 
old and lonely. . . . 

"Well, dear child, I must close now, as I am so tired. 
The 'Sale of Work' was a great success, but of course at 
my age a 'stall' is no light undertaking. 

"Your little sketches sold well. The vicar's wife 
bought one and admired it. This, I know, will please 
you. 

"Now, please write by return and relieve my anxiety. 
I beg you to do nothing rash, and remain, as ever, 

"Your Loving Mother." 

Deirdre laid the letter down with a sigh. 

"Isn't it just like her?" She stared through the dia- 
mond-paned window, divided between tears and laughter. 
"For years she's been urging me to rebel, and now that 
I have at last the chance to do so she raises the first 
objection. Of course I see where the shoe pinches . . . 
money! She might know by now that I never should 
dream of going to her I I've never asked for any help — 
I'd die first I" Her face was proud. "Well, I suppose 
I must answer it" She sat down and took up her pen, 
then aware of the darkening light glanced agam through 
the window. A thunder-storm was driving up before tihe 
wind, the blue sky invaded by an angry band, iron-col- 
oured, edged with copper. Big drops began to fall — the 
forerunners of the ram — ^and a faint rumble rolled rotmd 
the circle of hills, wamingly. 

The sudden change from the bright sunshine was al- 
most startling; the silence seemed strangely intensified; 
not a leaf stirred ; the birds had vanished. 

"Here it comes !" She drew a breath of relief as the 
pent sky opened and the deluge poured down. 

Then a figure caught her eyes, running hard, a dog 
at her heels, across the space where the roads met — that 
of a girl dressed in white. She passed the window and 
wheeled to the left. Deirdre guessed she was sheltering 
to take breath in the narrow porch. A flash of lightning 
let loose the thunder with the suddenness of a fired gun. 



AUTUMN 73 

The deafening noise sent her shrinking back, stunned 
for a moment ; then her thoughts turned to the stranger 
at her gates. 

She ran quickly down the stairs, across the hall, and 
opened the door. 

''Do come in — such a dreadful storm I" breathlessly she 
addressed the girl. 

"May I ? It s very kind of you." Her visitor needed 
no second bidding. ''Olga is so frightened at thunder. 
I'm afraid we're both of us wet — d'you mind?" 

"Of course not." Deirdre closed the door quickly as a 
second flash, forked and venomous, lit the sky. 

"It came on so suddenly. Quiet, Olgal Lie down." 
The Borzoi was whimpering, tail tucked between her le^. 

Deirdre, glancing at the speaker, saw a slim and wil- 
lowy girl with a fair skin flushed by running and beauti- 
ful, wide, blue-green eyes. She wore a white, rain- 
splashed sweater, drawn down over her slim hips, with 
a short and shabby serge skirt that showed her ankles, 
slender and neat, and a pair of heavy brogued shoes. A 
panama hat, browned by the sun, was carelessly set on 
her small head, and as she spoke she drew out the pin 
securing it and pulled it off. 

She shook the rain from it vigorously. Her hair was 
the palest, purest gold, wound in great plaits that shone 
in the gloom, almost too heavy a coronal for the delicate 
face and long white neck. 

"Let me have that dried for you." Deirdre held out 
her hand, but the girl laughed. 

"Oh, no, thanks ! It isn't worth it — ^it's used to rain." 
She glanced around her, interested. 

"How pretty you've made this place. I love those nan- 
keen blue curtams. You ought to have some blue china 
on that shelf above the mantel-piece." She sat down in 
the ladder-back chair, which Deirdre drew forward, quite 
at ease, her long slim hands folded tranquilly on her 
lap. 

"And 'Love-in-the-Mist' in a deep bowl — ^as a last 
touch. I love blue with old oak, don't you? — and cop- 
per. • . . That's a nice warming-pan 1" 

"Yes.** Deirdre felt amused. "I'm only just settled 



74 AUTUMN 

in. There are heaps of things I want to get It looks 
rather bare at present But I hope to pick them up slowly 
so as to prolong the fun/* 

The girl nodded. 

"That's the way ! I can tell you of a dear old shop in 
Kilby, not the grand place in the High Street, but one I 
found myself, tucked away in a side alley. I bought a 
sun-dial there last week for my rose-garden. Are you 
fond of flowers ?" 

"Yes — very. I was brought up in the coimtry, but I've 
rather forgotten my gardening." 

"Oh, you'll soon pick it up again. I'll come and help 
you, if you like. I think I've got just the plates you want 
for that shelf there — oriental ones. I'll look them up 
when I get home. There's a nice tall piece with dragons 
on it that would do for the centre, and a bowl" — she 
frowned, her fine brows drawn together — "if it isn't 
smashed. I can't remember." 

The simple, open-handed way she offered the pft 
made Deirdre wonder. Who could this bountiful visitor 
be? She hardly knew how to reply. Day saved her the 
necessity by appearing with the cloth for tea. 

"Will you have it here, mum, or upstairs?" 

"Here." Deirdre caught her eye. A silent message 
passed between them. 

"Might I have a duster," asked the girl, "just to rub 
Olga down ? She's so wet — she'll make your matting in 
such a mess. Thanks so much." 

She turned with a smile to her hostess and added 
naively : 

1 was just longing for some tea!" 

1 am so glad I happened to see you." Deirdre smiled 
back. "I was sitting in my lookout tower when I saw 
you running across the road. Don't you think — if I 
found you something — ^you could slip oflf those wet 
clothes ? I'm so afraid you'll catch cold." 

"Oh, rain never hurts me. I live out of doors all 
weathers — sleep out in the sunmier. It's so lovely when 
you wake! We've built a shanty in the woods — a little 
place on wooden piles with no walls, just a roof — and 
we sling our hammocks up there. It's quite close to the 






AUTUMN 75 

lake, too ; handy for one's morning tub. D'you like swim- 
ming?** 

"Yes, I love it r 

"I'm so glad," said this strange child. "Nobody here 
cares to bathe except Rollo — and sometimes Chris." 

"RoUol" That explained the matter. This must be a 
Mesurier. 

"You live at the Hall?" asked Deirdre. 

"Yes, of course." The blue-green eyes opened wide. 
Then she nodded. "I forgot youVe only just come here. 
Chris told me all about you." She chattered on artlessly 
as Deirdre poured out the tea. "But he imderstood you 
came from London." 

"So I do." Deirdre caught a trace of childish disdain 
m the way she uttered the last word. 

"Ah, but you like gardening and bathing — ^you're not 
real town ! I'm so glad. I've so few friends," she took 
a big bite of cake and turned, the beautiful eyes anxious, 
"I hope you'll come and see my garden." 

"I should love to." Her hostess spoke warmly. 

"What I meant to say," the girl explained, "when I 
spoke of London, was that I feared you might be what 
Rollo calls 'social,' and that would have spoilt every- 
thing." 

"It's not a besetting sin of mine," Deirdre laughed, her 
eyes twinkling; "between ourselves, I will confess I was 
not a success as a Londoner." 

"Good! I hate towns myself — except a few I've seen 
in France. . . . I've French blood in my veins — ^perhaps 
that accounts for it. Oh! I must tell you — it was so 
odd," she stooped to offer a piece of cake to the dog be- 
side her, "you won't? For shame! She's not often as 
rude as this," she explained. "It's the thunder that's up- 
set her. Olga's Russian." She spoke to the dog in some 
words that Deirdre could not catch and patted the fine 
narrow head. "She likes to hear her own language." 

"You speak Russian?" Deirdre asked. 

"Very little. Rollo does ; but then he speaks anything. 
It's useful, you see, when we travel. What was I going 
to tell you?" She paused. "Oh, I know! A few sum- 
mers ago we went for a walking tour down the Loire — 



76 AUTUMN 

right from its source to the sea. Such fun I Part of the 
way we hired a punt auid let the current do all the work. 
You've no idea how fast it runs ! And close to Blois we 
found a church full of old Mesurier tombs. They used 
to have a chateau there, ages ago, but it was burnt in 
some war — I forget which. But you can't think how 
funny it was to stray by chance into the church and see 
one's own name everywhere. I've felt French ever 
since." 

"And yet you look purely Saxon." Deirdre's eyes 
dwelt admiringly on that wonderful pale gold hair and the 
wild-rose face underneath. 

'I'm not," said the girl. "You should see RoUo. He's 
dark as a gipsy! We met a man very like him in Brit- 
tany. But I take after my mother. She was fair — an 
American. She died, you know, when I was a baby. I 
can't remember her at all." 

Deirdre felt puzzled. Could this be the Squire's 
daughter? Carefully she put the question: 

"Then you are — I'm rather mixed — a sister of Mr. 
Mesurier?" 

"Heavens, no I He's my father. Is it because I call 
him RoUo?" her clear girlish laugh rang out. "I always 
have. You see he's a pal; more like a brother — so aw- 
fully young. It does shodc Aunt ByngI She thinks it 
much too familiar. But^u'U understand when you meet 
RoUo. He's not a bit like other people." She went on 
rather shyly. "I wish you would tell me your name. I 
don't think Chris got it right." 

"It's Caradoc — ^Deirdre Caradoc." 

"Deirdre? How pretty I Irish, of course — I know the 
story. I'm called Hyacinth. D'you like it?" she asked 
ingenuously. 

"Yes ; it suits you. It's like the spring." She paused 
as a memory stirred in her mind. Had she used the same 
words before, or was her brain playing a trick ? 

But Hyacinth ^ve her no time to think. She rose 
from her diair with a lithe movement 

"It's stopped raining. I ought to go. I don't want to, 
but you see I promis^ RoUo after tea to help him with 
his water-garden. When will you come and see mine? 



AUTUMN J7 

I want to show you my 'blue vista/ Come to-morrow ?" 
She b^ged like a child. "Yes — ^you will? At twelve 
o'clock. How nice I D'you know the way? The north 
lodge is miles round. There's a short cut you'd better 
take— by Brewer's farm and across the fields. You 
folbw the wall to the first gate — it's always open in the 
daytime — ^through the wood and turn to the left ; then to 
the right and you'll see the Hall. I'll meet you at the end 
of the gardens. You wofit forget?" The blue-green 
eyes were wistful. 

Deirdre promised her. 

"ni come — rain or snow. It's very nice of you to ask 
me. If s rather lonely here at times, though I love the 
wee place." 

"Lonely ? That won't do." The girl's face went sud- 
denly grave. "But I know the feeling, when RoUo's 
away, diough I don't let myself get unhappy. Rollo says 
that everyone (mght to be happy — it's their duty. He 
says it makes the atmosphere better all round" — ^a mis- 
chievous smile curved her mouth, the most unchildish 
part of her, for the lips were full with a hint of passion 
that warred with the innocence of her eyes. "He and the 
rector argue about it RoUo says it's far better to be 
selfish and happy than the reverse, that a melancholy al- 
truism is a kind of infectious disease. It's more moral 
for people to do as they like and carry sunshine about 
than to execute a painful duty and be a blight upon the 
land!" 

Deirdre guessed that she was quoting. The words 
sounded so odd cm her lips. 

"And you do what — what you like'?" She smiled 
down into the pretty face. 

"Always I— except when Aunt Byng's there." Hjra- 
dnth wrinkled up her fine straight nose in a childish gnm- 
ace. "Rollo calls her the 'nettle-rash,' because she leaves 
us feeling prickly. Well, you will come — ^without fail ?" 
She picked up her hat and dragged it on over her head 
in a Dusiness-like way ; then extended her delicate hand. 

"Thank you so much for my nice tea." She hesitated, 
her face warming. Impulsively she held up her cheek. 

"I do like you. I hope we'll be friends." 



78 



AUTUMN 



Deirdre kissed the cool, soft face. 

"I'm very glad to know you, dear." 

Her starved heart went out to the girl.. Here was 
youth, with youth's affection, sweet and sudden and un- 
foreseen. 

She stood for a moment in the doorway watching the 
slim figure stride gallantly up the muddy road. Behind 
her Olga picked her steps mincingly, with lowered head, 
still depressed by the thunder. 

Overhead was a fresh-washed sky of blue, with trailing 
fleecy clouds suggesting the flight of wild swans, a. pre- 
sage of a windy night. At the comer Hyacinth turned 
and waved. Then she vanished down the lane. 

Deirdre closed the door with a sigh, remembering the 
letter before her. 

"I wonder what Mamma would say if I quoted the 
Squire's theories?" The thought provoked a mischiev- 
ous smile as she chose a fresh sheet of paper. 



CHAPTER IX 

With a certain curiosity Deirdre opened the gate in the 
wall that bordered the wood on the morning after 
her meeting with the Squire's daughter. 

The cart-track ran between high trees where the un- 
dergrowth had been cut back and the withered spikes 
of bluebells lingered ; the path was soft beneath her feet 
with the brown dust of last year's beech-leaves. The 
cool shade seemed filled with life: a woodpecker tap- 
ping the hard bark, a rustling here, a soft flight there, 
and, far away, the shrill wild call of a pheasant broke 
the drowsy silence. 

She came at last to a narrow bridge, with a sluice 
beneath, now drawn up to allow the water, unchecked, 
to flow through a deep-banked brook flanked by a path. 

This was the "first turn to the left," she decided, and 
made her way along it, pausing once as a red-brown 
streak shot up a tree to stand and watch a squirrel at 
his pretty tricks. At last the branches thinned before 
her and she came out on a little dell, through which the 
stream ran merrily, fringed with meadow-sweet and 
rushes. 

She could see no signs of any house, but, as she 
glanced across the field, a touch of orange caught her 
eye amidst the universal green. 

A man was kneeling by the brook, busy building a 
small dam to turn the water out of its course into a 
freshly-dug channel. 

Stones were littered about in heaps, workmen's tools 
and a wheelbarrow, while the turf had been laid back 
in places. 

The splash of colour was a kerchief knotted round the 
man's bare throat; his shirt sleeves were rolled up 
above his elbows, his heavy boots were thick with clay, 
and under the sunshine his dark hair gleamed, innocent 
of covering. 

79 



8o AUTUMN 

Deirdre hailed him cheerfully. 

"Hi ! You there I Can you tell me, am I going right 
for the Hall?" 

At the sound of her voice the man looked up, his arms 
still deep in the stream, and she saw his face, gipsy-like, 
with black hair, straight and thick, a clear, brown skin 
and piercing eyes. 

"Straight on and the path to the right. You ought 
to have turned off before." 

Then, without wasting further time, back he went to 
his task again. 

"Thanks." Deirdre walked on, smiling a little at 
country manners. "It wouldn't have hurt him to stand 
up or say 'ma'am'," she decided. 

Following his brief directions she found herself very 
shortly in the open park, where the meadow-land rose 
steeply to a straggling line of stone walls, which, she 
guessed, must enclose the Hall gardens; and, as she 
mounted against the sky, the great pile of the house 
stood forth. 

Very fine and ancient it looked in the dazzling sun- 
shine, battlemented, with its twin towers on either side, 
and the wide sweeping girdle of moat 

She came to this in due course and crossed by the 
mossy wooden bridge to find her further progress 
barred by another blue painted door. 

"I suppose this must be the right way." She felt sud- 
denly rather shy. Then she heard Hyacinth's voice 
singing within and her light, quick step. 

She pushed the door, which swung back at her touch, 
and paused with a gasp of admiration. 

Roses! — a wilderness of roses — and flying down the 
centre path the slim figure dressed in white, with Olga 
loping at her heels. 

"There you are ! I'm so glad." Hyacinth reached her 
gay and breathless. "I was just coming to look for you 
in case you were lost — like the babes in the wood! 
You're not tired?" 

"Not a bit!" Deirdre laughed back. 

"Then well go at once to my garden. This? Oh, 
this is just tor roses — roses to cut. Would you like 



AUTUMN 8i 

some? You must take a basketful home with you. But 
now, come along — through here." 

"Here" was a narrow passage cut in a deep yew 
hedge. Beyond it lay a Dutch garden, prim and quaint, 
and Deirdre longed to linger, but Hyaanth dragged her 
on with a contemptuous : 

"That's nothing! It was always there — in Grannie's 
time. It reminds me of a Noah's Ark! You wait till 
you see mine — it's the best colour scheme I've done." 

They crossed a stretch of velvety turf, where a gigan- 
tic cedar threw wide shadows over the lawn, descended 
some shallow stone steps and turned to follow a lower 
terrace. 

"Now," said Hyacinth, "this way." 

They skirted a clump of rhododendrons and azaleas 
and came to a wall covered with jasmine and clematis. 

A narrow blue door confronted them, and Hyacinth 
paused before it. 

"Shut your eyes. I'll lead you through and then you'll 
get the whole effect." 

Deirdre smilingly obeyed. She heard the old hinges 
creak, felt a hand take her own and was drawn forward 
a few paces. 

"Abracadabra! Behold the magic!" 

At the sound of the gay and eager voice, she lifted 
her lids and stood for a moment bewildered by a sense 
of colour, a dazzling dream of fairy-like blue. . . . 

"Wonderful !" She gazed entranced at the picture be- 
fore her, lips parted. 

On either side of a flagged path that led straight to 
the edge of the moat were massed plants in every shade 
of azure down to the blue of gentians. 

Delphiniums reared their spiked heads with masses of 
flax-blue Anchusa; Viscaria, Himalayan Poppies, Lu- 
pins and Canterbury Bells rippled above the smaller 
flowers. Great clumps of Forget-me-not, Nemophila and 
Love-in-the-mist, Alpine Aquilegia and Lobelia vied with 
the stunmer sky. The path widened at the end round 
a fountain basin and this, too, was lined with fragments 
of turquoise mosaic from the centre of which a Mercury 
in bronze stood poised on one winged foot. Behind 



82 AUTUMN 

this was a stone gateway, arched, with a deep niche 
above, a primitive shrine in which was placed the last 
touch, a "blue Madonna." 

"You like it?" Hyacinth watched her friend. "It 
will look better still next month — some of the plants are 
hardly out." 

"I think it's too perfect for words." Deirdre moved 
forward, drawn by the archway and view beyond. 

Bees came blundering across her path, their wings 
and bodies yellow with pollen and a tiny sulphur but- 
terfly fluttered down on a great blue poppy. 

"You ought to arrange that the butterflies should be 
blue, too," she laughed back, "and it only needs a blue- 
bird to make the fairy tale complete." 

Hyacinth followed her, slipping a hand through 
her new friend's arm. 

"Come and look at my Madonna. Isn't her cloak a 
heavenly colour? We found her on the Italian coast, 
at a place called Diana Fontana, which was wrecked by 
a terrible earthquake, and rescued her from a ruined 
shrine. She comes indoors in the winter and the first 
branch of almond blossom that flowers is dedicated to 
her, to remind her of her native land. 

"This mosaic we found at Prato in a funny old ^hop. 
The Mercury, I don't think, is very old, but effective — 
that single dark note. I wanted really a 'Dancing Faun,' 
but the price asked was prohibitive; though Rollo was 
sorry afterwards, and he rather mocks the present foun- 
tain, calls it Piccadilly Circus and suggests a few arc 
Ughts." 

"How horrible of him !" Deirdre gazed out over the 
park, standing in the old archway. She followed the 
crescent line of the woods and saw for the first time 
the lake — the broad burnished sheet of water, broken by 
a single island. 

"Is that where you bathe?" 

"Yes. Look ! You'll see the end of the diving-board 
beyond that little clump of willows. The bathing-shed 
is just behind." 

"I've got it," Deirdre nodded. "And where do you 
sleep ?" 



AUTUMN 83 

"Oh, further on, in a green drive that was cut through 
the wood for shooting in my grandfather's time. We 
don't shoot now. Rollo and I disapprove of murder." 

Deirdre glanced up surprised, but the girl's face was 
perfectly grave. Her little head was proudly poised on 
the slender neck, the aquamarine eyes sombre. 

"It is murder." She answered the look and frowned 
as she saw a faint smile come and go on her new 
friend's face. "Have you ever heard a hare scream? 
I did once" — she shuddered slightly — "and how can you 
bear to see a pheasant, its beautiful coppery breast 
stained with its life-blood — for mere sport! No, it's 
too wantonly wicked." 

"I know exactly how you feel." Deirdre spoke gently. 
"But still, if you come to think it out, it's no worse than 
killing a sheep or any other creature for food." 

"One's a necessity," said the girl; "the other merely 
a luxury. Anyhow" — she stretched her arms above her 
head with a sleepy yawn — "we've other ideas of hospi- 
tality. Every bird and beast in the wood lives in safety 
whilst we're alive. They're guests, you see, of Rollo 
and mine — and, what's more, I believe they know it! 
They're so tame — the dear things. Rollo feeds them 
and talks to them. Sometimes on a moonlight night he 
wanders away from our sleeping lodge for hours to- 
gether and talks to the hares. I always think he's more 
like a faun than a mere mortal. He seems himself a 
part of the woods, untamed and free." 

Her face was dreamy, full of sweetness. "D'you be- 
lieve in Pan? I do . . . sometimes. I'm sure once I 
heard his pipes. Rollo won't let me talk of it. He's 
superstitious and thinks it unlucky." 

Suddenly her mood veered round. She laughed, with 
a girlish note of mischief. 

You're not a bit pagan, you know. You're a modem 
believer. I'm sure you say the Athanasian Creed right 
through without a single throb of compunction I" 

Deirdre smiled. 

"I don't quite see why that should be so up-to-date. 
It was written a good many years ago " 

But Hyacinth interrupted her. 



84 AUTUMN 

"Anyhow, you're quite a dear! Come along and see 
my pigeons — fan-tails, snow-white. They look like a 
debutante's court curtsy !" 

"What an idea!" They retraced their steps to the 
long lawn at the side of the house and were crossing 
this when the deep boom of a gong within startled them. 

"That's lunch — what a bore!" Hyacinth paused. 
"We shan't have time. You'll have to see them after- 
wards." 

"I must be off. I'd no idea it was so late," said 
Deirdre. 

"Oh!" The girl stared at her, visibly disappointed. 
"Then you won't meet RoUo. . . . Oh, do stay — I'd 
counted on your lunching with us. And you've got to 
choose your blue china. I hunted it up yesterday and 
found, too, a copper jug we brought back from Mo- 
rocco. Just the thing for your parlour." She would 
not listen to excuses, but chattered on, drawing her guest 
towards the house determinedly. "I only hope you call 
it a 'parlour' — it's such a dear, old-fashioned word. 
Would you like to come up and take off your hat? 
This way." She opened a door and led her guest down 
a short passage that brought them out into the hall. 

"It's very good of you," said Deirdre, gazing around 
her open-eyed. Instinctively she glanced up at the far- 
off dim ceiling. 

Everybody does that !" Hyacinth laughed delightedly. 
Isn't it nice and empty and cool ? Rather like an old 
churdi, but without that funny fusty smell which al- 
ways seems to go with religion !" 

For the wide, stone-flagged space ran up into misty 
heights, where the narrow windows, set deeply in the 
walls, poured down pale shafts of light The great stair- 
case of dark oak with shallow steps, uncarpeted, led 
to a pair of galleries that encircled the finely propor- 
tioned hall and from which the bedrooms branched off 
into two wings beneath the towers. 

Faded tapestry lined the walls; panther skins lay on 
the flags, and a long refectory table ran from end to 
end, covered with books, magazines and bowls of pot- 
pourri. 






AUTUMN 85 

High-backed chairs, with gold-brown seats of Spanish 
leather, were scattered about and a huge screen in the 
same material flanked the wide mediaeval fireplace. 

"How perfect it is!" said Deirdre. "Dont you love 
living here?" She drew a deep breath of pleasure. 

"Yes," the girl nodded gravely. "It's . . . home." 
Her voice was rather abrupt. "I don't think I could 
bear to leave it!" A faint shadow crossed her face. 
Then she gave a little laugh. 

"Come along — lunch will be cold! I'll just see if 
RoUo's in." She led the way to a little room, an ante- 
chamber off the hall, octagonal shaped, with panelled 
walls and windows overlooking the lawns. 

Dull, Venetian-red curtains framed the view and the 
note was repeated by a row of plates on a high shelf 
in Hispano-Moresque lustre. 

Hyacinth peered out into the garden. 

"Would you like to take your hat off here? There's 
a glass. Or come up to my room?" 

"This will do beautifully." 

Deirdre stood on tiptoe to see herself in the deep 
mirror, with its silvery panels and knots of flowers, each 
rose a different shape, m the fine old Italian workman- 
ship. 

Hyacinth flung her panama down and ran her fingers 
through her hair. 

"I wonder where Rollo^s gone." She leaned far out 
of the window. "I'm sure I can hear him singing some- 
where. Listen !" Deirdre held her breath. 

From far away they could catch the notes of a song, 
which gradually grew clearer: a rich and deep bari- 
tone voice, with a careless laughing note in it. 

At last they could hear the words distinctly. Deirdre 
listened, fascinated. 

Le petit vin de chez nous 
Est diose leg^re; 
J'en avale de grands coups 
n ne g^ise ^^re 
II me fait quand je le bois 
Le coeur et Tesprit plus droits, 
£t Rabelais autrefois 
En but i pleine verre. 



86 AUTUMN 

A figure moved out rapidly from behind the great 
cedar and came swinging across the lawn, supple and 
full of youth, bareheaded, in a flannel shirt with a yel- 
low kerchief wound round the throat. 

The colour rose in Deirdre's cheeks as Hyacinth cried 
joyfully : 

' "Here he is!" And then across the intervening space: 
"Hurry up, Rollo! Lunch is ready. Mrs. Caradoc's 
here and we're hungry!" 

'Ttight you are !" came back the voice. "I must have 
a wash. I'm caked in clay! You start — I'll be down 
in a minute." He vanished through the side door. 

Deirdre blessed the short respite. This was the 
gipsy- faced individual she had treated as a labourer! 
Aware of Hyacinth's questioning glance she gathered 
her wits quickly together. 

"He looks too young to be your father." She spoke 
the first words that entered her head. 

"He is young! — such a priceless thing." Hyacinth 
laughed back. "So nice for me, I mean. He was mar- 
ried at nineteen, you know. He ran away with my 
mother, in his second year at Cambridge. She was 
there for the May week — her first trip to Europe, too ! — 
and he fell in love at his college ball. Then his people 
made a fuss, so he just went off with her to Italy. Rollo 
can't bear being fussed, and this was the easiest way to 
stop it" 

This simple explanation amused Mrs. Caradoc. She 
began to understand why the coimty labelled the present 
Squire "eccentric." 

"I see. I suppose it settled the matter and that his 
people accepted the fact?" 

"Oh, dear no! They quarrelled and quarrelled I So 
Rollo just stayed away. I was bom the year after in a 
villa they took at Capri. Rollo says" — she laughed 
gaily — "that's why I'm so capricious ! But, of course, it 
made matters worse. You see, I ought to have been a 
boy — fair, too — the Mesuriers are dark. Then suddenly. 
Grannie died and Rollo was sorry. We all came home 
and patched thines up and lived here until ... all that 
dreadful trouble. 



AUTUMN 87 

She stopped, frowning. Deirdre wondered what the 
phrase covered. To fill the pause that prolonged itself, 
she asked gently: 

"You grew up here?" 

"Most of the time — since I was six. We came back 
on Grandfather's death. RoUo had to look after the 
place, and since then " 

The door swung wide, and the Squire entered, break- 
ing the thread of her discourse. 

"I didn't stop to change, you see. Will you excuse 
me?** He held out his hand to Deirdre and shook hers 
warmly. "I'm so glad to see you — ^again." 

His voice dropped on the last word. The lean brown 
face was mischievous. In the narrow-lidded brilliant 
eyes were dancing imps which challenged her. 

Something perverse drove her on. 

"I don't think we've met before." She almost won- 
dered at herself as she spoke coolly and pleasantly. 

His head, with its thick, blue-black hair, now plas- 
tered carefully back, went a little on one side, a ges- 
ture she learnt to know later! 

"Then let me . . . hope that you have a double?" 

His voice was dry, though purposely he exaggerated 
his courteous manner. 

"Just tell me one thing, though " He paused as 

the man announced lunch and they moved forward 
through the hall. "If I'd said 'ma'am' to your 'double' 
would she have chucked me a penny?" 

Deirdre laughed. It was so unexpected. She saw, 
too, in a flash, that behind the fun he was making 
their meeting easy in his puckish way. 

"I'll tell you, after Itmch, perhaps. I'm rather afraid 
to risk it now." 

Hyacinth, however, chimed in. 

"When did you meet RoUo?" she asked curiously, as 
they sat down at the long table on either side of the 
Squire beneath the line of old portraits. 

" 'Little pitchers,' " misquoted the host, " 'should be 
seen and not heard.' Salt put up a hedgehog this 
morning — ^you should have been there. It was so funny. 
He tried 'kicking against the pricks' and gave it up 



88 AUTUMN 

like the great apostle. Then he found a water-rat In 
fact, he helped me all he knew! But Fm getting on. 
To-morrow, with luck, I hope to start the first bridge." 
He turned from his daughter to his guest. 

"I'm hard at work at a water-garden. There's a 
stream that runs down to the lake and this I'm splitting 
into two and draining part of the marshy hollow. Then 
we shall throw bridges across and make paths with 
some big boulders here and there for rock-plants, and 
in the Autumn start ahead in real earnest — water-lilies, 
irises and flowering reeds. I hope you're fond of gar- 
dening? Otherwise, I shall bore you!'* 

"You can't bore me in that way." Her face was full 
of interest. "I want to learn. I've forgotten so much 
with all these barren years in town. How do you plant 
water-lilies ?" 

"It's quite easy." Mesurier smiled. He liked the 
look of his new neighbour, with her candid deep blue 
eyes, and simple unaffected manner. "You put the roots 
in osier baskets packed round with soil and weighted. 
These sink to the bed of the stream, the roots take hold 
and bit by bit the osier-twigs rot away." 

"I see. What else are you going to plant?" She 
glanced at the dish handed her wonderingly. 

"That's root-fennel— do try it," said 5ie Squire. 
"'Fennochio,' like you get in Italy. People here only 
seem to know the stronger leaf used for sauces." 

Hyacinth made a faint gprimace. 

"It tastes like soap," she explained. "I recommend 
you to stick to the peas." 

But Deirdre decided to try it. 

The lunch was simple but well appointed; the deli- 
cate glass and fine old silver, with bowls of freshly 
gathered roses, and the pair of quiet, attentive servants 
suggested an easy affluence with none of the modem 
love of display. Mesurier drank light ale from a big 
tankard thirstily, but there was an excellent Moselle, 
cool, as she guessed, from the deep old cellars. 

"Tell me what else you mean to grow in the water- 
garden ?" Deirdre asked. 

"Irises chiefly — all sorts and kinds. I want to get a 



AUTUMN 89 

mass of colour. Then, of course, besides the plants 
comes the question of trees — almond, cherry and yoimg 
laburnums. I'm going to experiment with wistaria 
trained along some old pillars, rather after the Japanese 
fashion, and I thought the paths should all lead up to 
a little temple on the slope as a sort of culminating 
point. I brought back two broken columns from Greece 
which will serve for the portal." 

"A temple for ancestor worship?" Mrs. Caradoc sug- 
gested. "Despite those pillars it sounds to me more 
Japanese than Greek." 

"Heaven forbid!" laughed Mesurier. "I should have 
to go a long way back to find an ancestor I fancied." 

"Not even those famous ones — ^'RoUo and Ann hys 
wyfe'?" 

As she spoke the words he glanced up quickly, as a 
man will when his name is uttered. 

"You mean old Rollo — on the tomb? No— he's a bit 
too stiff and hide-bound. I'd rather have a pagan deity. 
What do you say. Hyacinth?" 

"I suggest Aunt Byng!" A ripple of laughter fol- 
lowed the words. 

"Excellent! Unluckily, she's alive," said the Squire 
grimly. 

"Only half," his daughter amended. "Chris calls her 
a *fly m amber.' He says that if you broke through 
the rocky defences you might find arrested life, but it's 
ten to one she'd vanish into a pinch of dust." 

"That's like Chris," Mesurier laughed. "A neigh- 
bour of ours," he explained to Deirdre. 

"Do you mean Mr. Pontefract? I met him once with 
the Rector." 

A sudden uncontrollable impulse drove her to recount 
to her host how the horse and rider had flashed past 
her in the moonlight on her first walk. 

But she did not allude to the scene in the wood. 

This was no business of hers, though she wondered 
afresh who the girl could have been, wandering in the 
Squire's domain. 

"Up to some mischief, I suppose." Mesurier's deep 
voice was careless. 



90 AUTUMN 

Deirdre glanced at Hyacinth, cool and unmoved, oc- 
cupied in skinning a peach with her long white fingers. 
The thought that had rankled in her mind faded quickly. 
She felt relieved. 

"I ran across him last Sunday fishing," the Squire 
went on happily, "or, rather, I found his fishing-basket 
and promptly emptied it into the river. I'm afraid one 
trout was past hope, but the others all cried *thank you.' " 

"Chris would be simply furious!" Hyacinth looked 
up, laughing. 

"Yes, he likes to play tricks himself, but he never 
expects the tables turned. Of course, that wasn't the 
real reason. I hate to see dumb creatures tortured." 

"And yet," said Deirdre thoughtfully, "Nature herself 
is often ruthless. Beast preys upon beast You have 
only to watch a stoat with a rabbit." 

"They've only instinct — no reason. Hunger's the 
cause, not a love of amusement" 

"All the same, we eat the trout." Deirdre loved an 
argument. 

"We needn't. There are heaps of other things." 

"But I can't see that it's more moral to kill a calf than 
a fish. It's really worse, in a way, as it hasn't got a 
sporting chance." She looked at the Squire, her eyes 
twinkling. "I'm inclined to think your objections aes- 
thetic rather than strictly humane." 

"You mean that the fish appeals to my eye more 
fully alive than dead?" he challenged. 

"Not altogether." Then she laughed. "But it's not 
far from it !" She dared his retort. 

It came swiftly. 

"How well you know me ! It takes a woman to jump 
at a truth that a man has been patiently probing for 
years!" His face was rather saturnine. He smoothed 
his hair back restlessly. 

"And what is 'the truth'?" She refused to be 
snubbed by his somewhat arrogant manner. 

"That beneath the cant we cast broadside we each 
of us live to please ourselves." Scorn rang in his 
voice. He leaned sideways across to his guest, gazing 
straight down into her eyes. "A dead trout is nothing 



AUTUMN 91 

to you but domestic economy — food, in fact. To me 
it's a mass of dulling scales, of beautiful ardent young 
life squandered — the negation of movement — a shat- 
tered picture, . . ." 

"RoUo I" Hyacinth's voice, eager, aggrieved, cut short 
the discussion. "That's a half-truth — unworthy of you. 
You know you hate to see suffering." 

Mesurier caught her up sharply. 

"It's the same thing. It hurts me. Sheer selfishness 
all through. The raison d'etre of philanthropy — to avoid 
the sight of unpleasant things! Wc none of us like 
the sting of pity. But we wrap it up in a beautiful 
cloak and call our conduct altruism! Shams . . . 
shams I" His voice swept out cuttingly through the high 
room. "Give me a man — or a woman, but that's still 
rarer ! — who has the pluck to say, 'I live to please my- 
self!'" 

He stopped abruptly. Leaning back in the carved arm- 
chair, deliberately he let his tense limbs relax, muscle 
by muscle. A smile grew on his lips and was mirrored 
in his eyes. He glanced sidelong at his guest. 

"If ever you feel your temper slip," he remarked 
in a genial, whimsical voice, "just let your body relax 
— go limp — it's a great cure. The little black dog gets 
frightened then and slithers down off your shoulders," 

Deirdre felt taken aback. What a mercurial crea- 
ture it was ! Yet his boyishness was not without charm. 
_ "I'll remember that." She nodded gaily, but Hya- 
cinth was still annoyed. 

"After all," she said warmly, "if it really is the sight 
of pain that worries you, why did you stay with poor 
O^ all that night? There was no reason to sit up 
— the 'vet' could have looked after her." 

Mesurier's bright eyes narrowed. He dearly loved to 
tease his daughter. 

"Let us think. . . . Ah, yes. If anything had hap- 
pened to Olga you would have gone into mourning for 
weeks t And I hate long faces about the house," 

Hyacinth jumped up. 

"Don't listen to himt" she cried. "Let's have our 
coffee under the cedar." 



92 AUTUMN 

"One minute/' The host laughed and turned to Deir- 
dre. "Fd quite forgotten ! That promise of yours about 
your double. What would she do, Mrs. Caradoc?" 

"If he said *ma'am'?" — her eyes danced — ^"This, I 
think." She opened her purse and solemnly drew out 
a penny. 

"Good for you !" he took it promptly, to her amuse- 
ment, and touched his forehead. 

"Thank ye, ma'am." 

He stood up, his hand raised in benediction and be- 
gan to patter quick words in a strange musical tongue. 

"That's a gipsy blessing. I learnt it in Spain from 
an old lady under a hedge. We shared the last of my 
tobacco. It was raining too ... a beastly night! If 
you hadn't been so generous I might have treated you to 
a curse!" 

"What an escape!" She passed out of the window 
on to the lawn below. "In Spanish too?" she laughed 
back. 

"No— a beauty I found one dav in a priest's library 
in Perugia. He made me free of his old books — some 
of them were quite priceless. This is known familiarly 
as the ^cinque dita^ curse. It starts like this, roughly 
translated : 

"Five fingers placed against the wall 
Five devils incarnate answer the call." 

*'It's in five verses, one for each finger, and by the 
time you get to the thumb your damnation is complete !" 

"Horrible !" She pretenaed to shudder. "I'm inclined 
to think that penny of mine was well spent." She 
glanced up at the tall figure with its gipsy-like face and 
brown bare throat, the yellow bandanna knotted loosely 
beneath the square arrogant chin. Again she felt that 
odd desire to pit her strength against his own — the prim- 
itive feminine delight of rousing a man to rebellion. 

"After all," she lowered her ejres, "it was true phi- 
lanthropy : it saved me future suffering." 

Rollo glanced at her obliquely. 

"Glad to see you agree widi me." He wheeled round 
and held out his hands, both together, in foreign fashion. 



AUTUMN 



93 



"Good-bye — I'm oflf to my work. I'll leave you to 
the child's mercy. When you're utterly tired of her 
come down to the water garden." 

Deirdre, somewhat surprised by this sudden de- 
parture, felt her hands gently seized, pressed for a sec- 
ond and lightly dropped. 

Then he was off, striding across the velvety turf, 
with a swinging gait, bare-headed. His long legs car- 
ried him to the botmdary of smooth lawn and he dropped 
down to the lower terrace heedless of the steps beyond. 
His voice floated back to them, gay and sweet, as he 
broke into song: 

"II me fait, quand je le bois, 
Le coeur et Tesprit plus droits. . . ." 

and faded softly away into the warm sunny silence. 



CHAPTER X 

For the next fortnight Deirdre saw her new 'friends 
continually. 

She bathed with Hyacinth in the lake and now and 
then the Squire would join them, whenever the hour was 
early enough; for he rose whilst the dew was still on 
the ground. They would breakfast afterwards al fresco, 
in the green glade near the sleeping lodge, on bacon, 
cooked on a camp stove, or an omelet — ^at which the 
host excelled! 

Happy, sunny gipsy days ! — to Deirdre a revelation of 
sane, sweet intercourse with Nature, spiced by her 
friends' erratic talk. 

Then they would motor her into Kilby to lunch at the 
old coaching inn and spend eager hours exploring the 
various curiosity shops. She was surprised at the fund 
of knowledge the pair displayed on these occasions ; but 
already she had realized that beneath the girl's child- 
ish manner there were depths of thought and erudition 
which she owed to companionship with her father. She 
had read an amazing selection of books and in the course 
of their travels abroad Mesurier had taught her to use 
her young intelligence to the utmost. 

He had a horror of insular prejudice and his own 
odd creed of life, which seemed to consist of a search 
for happiness with a curiously ruthless disr^[ard for 
conventional rules and regulations, had led him into 
strange adventures, frequently shared by his young 
daughter. 

Yet all the time they held aloof from what he called 
"social snares." They avoided the big crowded hotels 
where the British loved to surround themselves with the 
same atmosphere as at home and wandered from primi- 
tive inn to inn, on friendly terms with the natives. 

Heavy luggage they disdained. Often they took long 
journeys on foot, knapsack on back and staff in hand, 

94 



AUTUMN 95 

rarely tied to time or place, but swayed by the impulse 
of the moment. 

Deirdre's own distaste for a life within the narrow 
bounds of society, as glimpsed by her in her London 
days, and her love of beauty in Nature and Art were 
links that the pair recognised. 

She was learning too; picking up the lost threads of 
country lore. For the first time for many years she 
found herself in harmony with her surroundings and 
this renewed a sense of confidence in herself. Her 
nerves steadied; the tired dread of a premature and 
barren old age gave place to a new sensation of youth 
and it was reflected in her appearance. 

She looked, indeed, another woman, her sunburnt face 
glowing with health and the only shadow which dimmed 
her eyes fell when her, thoughts turned back to Mark. 

Not a line had passed between them. She had given 
him her banker's address and only her mother and her 
cousin knew the secret of Four Comers. 

The flat she had left in perfect order with a new 
maid to help the cook, the bills paid — her duty accom- 
plished! — on the morning she fled from it with Day. 

For the short time that had intervened between her 
departure and the scene which had driven her to this 
final step she had steadily avoided Mark. 

He had watched her, silent and morose, with, at mo- 
ments, a cynical amusement. She had easily guessed 
what lay in his mind. He had treated her words as 
an idle threat. And yet, beneath the sense of triumph 
which her quiet but dramatic exit so humanly induced 
in her, she could not achieve a full contentment. At 
odd moments when she awoke from the sunny dream at 
Four Comers she would feel a restless anxiety and, 
what was almost worse to bear, a faint suspicion of 
cowardice. 

Had she, in truth, deserted her post? Was it a con- 
quest, after all? 

Her love, crushed down, not wholly dead, warred 
with her pride. Her husband's face, rarely angry, would 
rise up, full of a curious wistfulness — ^the bewilder- 
ment of a lost child I 



96 AUTUMN 

The Rector's speech still rankled, with its warning 
note on "influence." In vain she would argue the ques- 
tion out and plead with herself that if ten years of 
uninterrupted intercourse had failed to mitigate Mark's 
temper — ^years in which her youth and passion had 
spent themselves unstintedly — ^there was little chance in 
the Auttunn of life to work a miracle through love. 

They were better apart. He was a man who preferred 
a bachelor's existence. He felt no need for companion- 
ship. Temperamentally he was cold. 

"After all," she thought bitterly, "I was only useful 
at odd moments — some one to fall back upon whenever 
outside interests flagged. A housekeeper — ^and occa- 
sional mistress. Here, at least, I can be natural; not a 
shadow adapting myself to the moods of a man who was 
never content and rarely knew his own mind." 

Then, deliberately, she would turn her thoughts into 
another channel. Yet her scruples returned at inter- 
vals. She could not wholly blot out the past. 

It was in one of these darker moods that Mesurier 
found her on a day when the weather had turned wet 
and cold with the suddenness of the English climate. 
Twilight had fallen very early and Day had lighted a 
small fire after tea in the "look-out-tower," as Deirdre 
called her pet room. 

"It will seem a bit of company and air the place," 
she suggested, "and I'll bring your supper up here, 
mum. It's that chilly in the hall." 

Deirdre had nodded assent, still absorbed in the prob- 
lem of Mark. She sat before the flickering logs, a 
book, unopened, on her lap, watching the flames gather 
strength, as the wood softly hissed and crackled. Its 
ptmgent smell stirred memories of a fire lit on her 
honeymoon one cold night at a Rouen hotel. Mark had 
luxuriated in it, stretched at full length on the hearth- 
rug, his head pillowed on her knees. They had talked 
of the glorious years ahead, of the fame which should 
surely crown his work, building castles in the air, as 
lovers will, all the world over. 

Meanwhile she had stroked back that thick red-gold 
hair of his until under her soft touch he had twisted 



AUTUMN 97 

round, and, straining up, drawn her face down to his. 

"If I succeed it will be through you," he had whis- 
pered between his lingering kisses. "Fm no good left 
alone — I don't think I'm really ambitious. . . . You'll 
have to keep me up to the mark. My ol^ mother knew 
that! So it's in your hands, little woman." 

"I'll try." The words had come from her heart. 
Now they returned, haunting her, like imps born of the 
wood sparks. 

In her hands? And she had left him — knowing his 
weakness but worn out, body and soul, by his tem- 
per. 

There came a soft tap at the door. Day appeared, 
wreathed in smiles. 

"The Squire's downstairs, mum — ^would like to see you, 
but not if you're busy, I was to say." 

In her faithful heart she was proud of the conquest 
her mistress had made at the Hall. ("It's what she 
wants — ^young life about her — instead of sour faces and 
cross words. So she reasoned, reassured by the change 
she already marked.) 

"Will you ask him to come up here?" Deirdre felt 
half-reluctant yet half-relieved to be dragged out of 
her sombre thoughts. 

Mesurier was ushered in. 

"How nice — I love a fire!" He crossed to it and 
held out one hand — the left — to her in his casual fash- 
ion, the other extended to the blaze. "I'm so glad 
you're both in." 

"Then sit down and toast your toes," she smiled back 
lazily. "Drag up that arm-chair to the hearth. Have 
you had tea?" 

"Yes — thanks." He settled down, facing the glow 
which lit up the rain drops that still clung to the rough 
tweed suit he wore. 

"I'm lonely," he confided. "Hyacinth's gone to her 
Aunt Byng for the week-end — to be improved !" 

"Your sister?" 

"Yes." He glanced sideways. "It's one of those re- 
lationships one takes on trust, with a faint dislike for 
the hidden ways of Providence." 






98 AUTUMN 

"Now what do you mean by that?" Deirdre smiled, 
but with tired eyes. 

'It's pretty obvious, isn't it ? We're of the same flesh 
and blood and that's the limit of the tie. I cordially 
dislike Louisa." 

1 hope it's not mutual?" she asked gravely. 
'Yes, thank goodness!" He stretched his arms over 
his head with a mighty yawn. "Sorry ! — ^that was meant 
for Aunt Byng. She cordially disapproves of me. She 
came here this morning and told me so — ^made such a 
scene that in sheer despair I offered the child up, as 
sacrifice." 

"Poor Hyacinth ! Didn't she mind?" 

"She didn't like it," the Squire admitted. "But 
women are more philosophical over small matters I think 
than men." 

"They have to be." Deirdfe sighed. 

He looked at her curiously. 

"I'm glad you're feeling depressed too. It's sympa- 
thetic. Even the weather has turned to tears — so hys- 
terical, she's washed away the dam in the brook." 

"No?" She roused herself at this. "Then all your 
work's at a standstill?" 

"Most of it. May I smoke?" He pulled out a briar 
pipe as she nodded, filled it with tobacco and lit it with 
a burning twig. 

For a space he puffed away in silence ; then he twisted 
in his chair so that he could watch her face. 

"What a rare companion you are!" His voice was 
dreamy. "You're more like a man. Most women get 
the fidgets if you don't chatter continuously." 

Deirdre smiled at this. 

"It occurred to me that 'Aunt Byng' had talked 
enough for one afternoon." 

"She did. She said she had never known a parent so 
utterly criminal from the point of view of responsibil- 
ity; more lacking in common sense and decency — yes! 
and religion — ^than a certain Rollo Mesurier. She went 
on to state her view that the fault would lie at my door 
if Hyacinth ran away with the chauffeur." 

Deirdre laughed aloud. 



AUTUMN 99 

"What did you say to that?" 

"I pointed out the simple error. It would probably 
be with the gardener." 

He turned his mocking brilliant eyes towards his com- 
panion's amused face. 

"I spoke the truth. It's far more likely — she's very 
fond of Second-Best." 

"Is that his name?" Deirdre wondered. 

"Part of it. His revered parent has been with us 
since the Flood. Not this one! — ^Noah's disaster. And 
when the mantle of Elijah — (Mark the influence of Lou- 
isa! — ^my mind drifts back to Sunday school.)" He 
gave a sudden boyish laugh. "Well — when it fell on 
the next generation it complicated matters somewhat. 
You see the old chap's name is Best, so Hyacinth solved 
the problem by calling the son Second-Best. As a mat- 
ter of fact, he's the better man of the two, but I can't 
dismiss the former, so I just let him potter about and 
amuse himself with finding fault. He has a passion for 
carpet bedding and long rows of ftmereal urns bubbling 
over with geraniums." The Squire's face was eloquent. 

"Why not employ him as chaperone to avert the sug- 
gested family scandal?" 

"I might." His voice lost its laughing note as he 
added, "It wouldn't be the first!" 

Deirdre, slightly surprised, glanced up at the lean 
brown face. It looked grim and rather reckless and 
as her eyes met his she saw they held a searching in- 
quiry. 

He leaned forward in his chair. 

'Do you mean to say that you've lived here for a 
whole month and met the Rector with his wife and 'our 
dear Mrs. Pontefract' without hearing the 'true facts' 
(I like that expression, don't you? — with its element 
of honest doubt) concerning what htmibugs call my 'mis- 
fortune' and the unco' guid my 'deserts'?" 

"No-o." Deirdre looked embarrassed. "Mrs. 

Gage " she broke off and started afresh. "I think 

perhaps I'm supposed to be rather dull, which means 
that I detest gossip." 

"I believe you," said Mesurier simply. "Another nice 



100 AUTUMN 

masculine trait." He smoothed back his black hair, star- 
ing absently into the flames. Then he pulled himself 
together. 

"You'd better know it/' he said abruptly. 

He gave her one of his side-long glances and added 
with a puckish smile. 

"The mise-en-scine is admirable for confidences, isn't 
it? Firelight and a pretty woman . . . the lonely cot- 
tage ... a stormy night." 

"Don't talk like that !" Impulsively the words slipped 
from her lips; the colour had mounted to her cheeks. 

"Sorry." He stretched out his hand and touched her 
arm like a penitent child. "I'm a brute! — ^to you. . . . 
Such a real soul! But I'd like to tell you. May I, 
please ?" 

"If you wish to." Her voice was low. She was 
oddly moved by his apology — ^the sudden humility of 
the man. 

"I do. I'd rather tell you myself. Most people don't 
understand. I think you will — ^you're . . . diflferent 

"Well " He resumed his old position, his head 

back against the chair, lon^ legs stretched out towards 
the cheerful glowing logs. I daresay you've heard how 
I married? At nineteen — b, boy's adventure! That's 
what it comes to when I look back to those early days. 
But I don't r^^et it — ^not that part — ^it was too ideal." 
He paused for a moment, his face sad. 

"I met her at Cambridge, one May-week, with her 
mother — a little shadowy woman, always wrapped in a 
fleecy shawl — ^a sort of Greek chorus to her daugh- 
ter ! Eulalie was two years my senior, very fair, &e 
Hyacinth, but tiny, with hands and feet like flow- 



Cl 9. . • • 
ii 



Pretty wasn't the word for her. She was brilliant 
too— as a butterfly! — ^vivacious with that audacity of 
quite young American girls which yet is combined with 
innocence. She 'dared' me into loving her. Teased and 
snubbed and petted me, all in a breath — bewildering, 
like a rose that is offered and snatched away. 

"I was mad for her! I don't know now if she 
ever truly cared for me. She loved romance and ad- 



"] 



AUTUMN loi 

miration, and — sls it happened — I gave her both. My 
people utterly refused to sanction our sudden engage- 
ment. I had shewn her pictures of my home and, I 
think, in a way, the Hall impressed her. You know 
how most Americans, though they laugh at tradition 
and long descent, revere our old historical places? I 
suppose the idea appealed to her — in a glorified way — 
to be mistress of Weavers. She was very attractive, 
dainty and cool. Men at Cambridge raved about her. 
She laughed and flirted with them all and made me 
at moments wildly wretched. I was terrified of losing 
her. Eventually we ran away, were married in Lon- 
don hastily, and caught the night boat, for Venice." 

He stopped to pick up a smouldering log that had 
fallen forward in the grate. 

'Didn't her mother know?" asked Deirdre. 

'All the time! But Eulalie pretended she didn't. 
That came out later. It added to the romance, you 
see ! She was never straight with me — from the start." 

Deirdre's face was pitiful. She guessed the tragedy 
ahead. 

"Anyhow, I owe her this — a few wonderful memo- 
ries. It's the one possession in this world even a woman 
cannot steal! There we were — two children — drinking 
our first deep draught of life with Venice for a golden 
background — a beautiful girl ... a boy's first pas- 
sion. . . • 

"We must have looked an odd pair — a modem Paul 
et Virginie. I remember still how people stared and 
how Eulalie drank it in ! But it couldn't last. The first 
cloud g^ew out of love from a clear sky. She didn't 
want a child, it seemed, dreaded it — ^when it was too 
late! I learned then how slight was the hold I had 
upon her. She turned on me. She was ill, complaining, 
disillusioned, and I was at my wit's end. I offered 
to take her back to her mother, or to pay the latter's 
passage over. No — she would rather be alone — travel 
about — ^try and forget it! We drifted on from place 
to place and finally settled in Capri. There was a pink 
villa there which took her fancy; we furnished it and 
there Hyacinth was bom." 



I02 AUTUMN 

A little silence followed the words; then he took up 
his story again. 

"After that things improved. The dread was gone 
and for a time she was glad to laze in that blue land, 
play with the child, and allow me to worship! Our 
garden looked out over the bay, with the far-off cap of 
Vesuvius and the orange trees were all in bloom — I can 
smell them still in my dreams. . . . Then she grew rest- 
less again, avid for movement, the life of a town. We 
went to Rome, on to Vienna, then to the Alps for the 
summer. 

"Everywhere she made friends — ^without the slight- 
est discrimination ! Heavens ! the awful people we met — 
vulgar, empty, ostentatious. All she asked was a cer- 
tain 'smartness.' Once or twice we fell out and then 
she punished me steadily by a cool disdain. She made 
me feel what a l)oy' I was — that she flirted with 'men' — 
and at last she would bring me to her feet. It's the 
secret of life: the one who loves bears the heaviest 
handicap; it's your cool and utterly heartless woman 
who can play as she likes with mankind. 

"Well, at the end of two years my mother died and 
we went home. Eulalie prepared for the part with an 
eagerness which surprised me. I had not realised at 
Cambridge the significance attached to my house !" He 
smiled rather bitterly. "But she had reckoned without 
my father. They disliked each other at first sight and 
the long, slow battle began — tradition versus modernity. 

"Everything was to go on as my mother had planned 
— the old r^me. You can picture the wrath of the 
young and ardent pioneer from the New World brought 
up sharp against the rock of British custom and preju- 
dice. My father was adamant. Here was a man she 
could not move. He was never discourteous ; his manner 
was perfect. Yet he made her feel an alien — ^in a sense 
a 'pretiender' under his roof — ^in no way worthy to be 
consulted. 

"The odd part of it was that I did not realise the 
position; not then — that came later. I was stunned at 
first by my mother's death and I slipped back into the 
life of my boyhood unconsciously. What was strange 



"] 



AUTUMN 103 

to my wife — the feudal system — ^was to me a feature of 
home existence; and I loved the place with all my soul 
— every stick and stone in it! I was tired to death of 
a wandering life and the noisy glitter of hotels, to say 
nothing of the people Eulalie found so amusing ! 

"Still, after six months or so, when my wife sug- 
gested a visit to town to meet her mother and some 
friends who were due by the next boat, I realized that 
a house of mourning must be depressing at her age, and 
I took her up to a quiet hotel, settled her in and then 
returned." 

He glanced across at Deirdre. 

"You must remember at the time that I was barely 
twenty-four." There was faint pleading in his voice. 
"If I'd had more experience I might have guessed it was 
not prudent to leave her to her own devices." 

'But her mother was with her?" Deirdre protested. 

'Yes — ^a very feeble guardian. Neither a wise nor 
far-seeing woman, with a totally different standard 
from ours. They stayed up there for three months, 
on one excuse or another. I ran up occasionally but 
I couldn't persuade her to return. She was living in a 
whirl of pleasure and I rarely had h*er to myself. This 
brought us to July. Then I got a curious letter to say 
that my wife was coming home and bringing 'Momma 
and some friends.' Would I have 'six bedrooms ready' ? 

"I felt a little surprised at this — annoyed too. She 
might have asked if the invasion suited my father. 
However, he took it very well. Honestly, I think he 
was curious to see what her friends would be like!" 
Mesurier laughed but with little mirth. 

Deirdre, watching his expression, raised her eyebrows. 
The Squire nodded. 

"Awful ! — a perfect menagerie ! But the worst of the 
whole collection was a man called Kellogg — ^James Kel- 
logg. A type I should think who would be vetoed in 
any land — including his own. He used to swagger about 
the lawn in a silk shirt and cummerbund, dancing 
pumps and striped socks, a huge cigar between his teeth, 
varied at meal times by a toothpick! A great swarthy 
hulking brute with lips like a negro atvd ixvs»o\K0S. ^^^s». 



104 AUTUMN 

Money oozed out of him — it was the only topic he 
knew! He priced everything in the house and capped 
it with his own possessions. He sneered at all our 
British ways, our lack of 'hustle' and enterprise, our 
* fool-notions' on gentle birth. I remember he called 
the hall a tomb and suggested a bar at one end with a 
pianola might cheer it up ! And Eulalie laughed and en- 
couraged him — ^flirted too. They danced, they sang — he 
had an abominable parlour trick he called 'vamping' an 
accompaniment — they drove the horses — ^and let them 
down; they picked the flowers and rifled the fruit. 

"And all the time my father watched them, quiet, 
sardonic, the courteous host — until I could have died for 
shame!" Mesurier writhed in his chair. 

"Horrible." Deirdre guessed what this boy of twenty- 
four had suffered, too young to control his guests, too 
old to quarrel with them! 

"At last I put my foot down. Kellogg had kissed one 
of the maids and the housekeeper came to me and 
complained. I had it out with Eulalie. I told her they'd 
stayed long enough. It wasn't a very pleasant scene 
and in the end I lost my temper. 

"That night she ran away with Kellogg." 

He paused for a moment, then went on quickly. 

"I followed the pair up to town. I thrashed him 
— ^the only bit of pleasure I got out of it all! I told 
him it was a 'British custom' — one of the many he de- 
spised! I left him to patch up his face — and, inci- 
dentally, my own." He laughed more naturally. "A 
strong chap but slow on his feet — ^ate and drank too 
much for fitness. Then came the bitterest part." He 
shaded his esres with his hand as though he mistrusted 
the light of the fire. 

"Your wife?" Deirdre whispered the words as the 
silence grew unbearable. 

"Yes. She was honest, for once! She told me that 
she loved Kellogg — ^'some man*, not a mere boy — ^that 
'baronial halls made her tired,* she'd as soon live in a 
museum ; that she'd never really been happy with me ! — 
That's what hurt most of all. She'd 'pretended,' hoping 
things would improve. It was all sham from start to 



AUTUMN los 

finish ! She said she'd never cared for me — that she felt 
sick when I touched her. . . . 

"As for the child, I could keep it. It was 'half Eng- 
lish, anyhow/ She was going to start life afresh — ^real 
life* — with James Kellogg! 

"I think I said something here about her mother. 
She laughed at me, told me not to 'worry any,' 'Momma* 
herself had been divorced. Kellogg 'would get that 
fixed up later* — once they were 'back in God's country!' 

"And all the time there she was, dainty as a china 
doll, with no heart and no conscience. 

"In the end she held out her hand, smiling, and 
wanted to 'part friends' — as though she'd paid me a long 
visit and was thankful it had come to an end." 

"What a tragedy!" Deirdre pictured the scene with 
a feeling of nausea. 

"Or comedy?" Mesurier smiled, but his lips twisted 
with the effort. 

* "The tragedy came a fortnight later. They sailed — 
all three — ^by the Medora.'* 

Deirdre started. 

"Not that ship . . . ?" 

"Yes — went down — ^all hands on board." He added 
in a strained voice: 

"It was before the days of wireless ; a frightful storm 
— ^no boats could live." 

'How dreadful!" She stared at him, shocked. 

'So I've never — really — ^been able to hate her. Of all 
people . . . Eulalie! She wasn't brave." He bit his 
lips. "God alone knows how Kellogg behaved." 

Silence fell between the pair but after a minute the 
Squire turned, smiling. 

•*I say — ^may I have a drink? Anything — I'm so 
frightfully dry." 

"Of course. Just touch that bell." She felt relieved 
by the natural tone in which he spoke. 

It seemed to hurry her back to the present, away from 
that far-off scene of horror. 

Her face was a trifle white, he thought, and when Day 
brought the whiskey he insisted on Deirdre's joining 
him. 



"] 



io6 AUTUMN 



"Do be friendly? I can't drink alone. I feel guilty, 
too, you know." 

She smiled back into his eyes. 

"You needn't. I can't express myself — ^but I think you 
can guess my sympathy." 

Rather shyly, she held out her hand. 

Mesurier took it. Bending his head he just touched 
it with his lips. Then he looked up, his face grave. 

"That's friendship," he said, "not . . . twaddle!" 

The humour of it caught them both. It set free 
laughter — that healing spirit. 

"I'm glad you explained it." Her eyes twinkled. 

Mesurier lifted his glass on high. 

"To the Turnpike Lady!" He saw her start, "Oh, 
yes — Chris told me — and how he came to 'pay toll.* 
Nothing is hid in a place like Weavers! Which re- 
minds me — I ought to be off." 

He put his ttunbler down with a sigh. "Unless, of 
course, you invite me to supper!" But he stood up 
as he spoke. 

Deirdre felt the faint challenge in his mischievous 
glance. He was testing her. Should she be conven- 
tional and turn him out? She decided quickly. 

"Wait till you hear what the supper is! A cup of 
soup— we could toss for that! Cold chicken, baked po- 
tatoes and salad, quite enough for two. Mrs. Slack has 
made a blancmange — 3. horrible thing, like a dead pud- 
ding. But " she paused dramatically — "there's straw- 
berry jam to help it down." 

"Good!" He laughed like a schoolboy. "Then I'll 
stay. That settles it!" 



CHAPTER XI 

The supper was a cheery one. Day performed a mira- 
cle, revising the simple menu. 

With the remains of some cold salmon she served up 
a mayonnaise, grilled the chicken, hid the blancmange 
and substituted a sweet omelet. 

The Squire did justice to the meal and won Day's 
heart by his appetite and the way in which he teased 
Deirdre, vowing she was a sybarite. 

They went back to the fire-lit room for their coffee, 
resuming their old position on either side of the deep 
grate, in the mellow mood that food induces, together 
with good company. 

"When does Hyacinth return?" Deirdre asked lazily, 
as she lay back, watching the smoke curl up from her 
cigarette. 

"Monday. I put my foot down there. She can't 
stand Byng either. He's a pompous ass — our member, 
you know — ^with but one topic, Tariff Reform. The 
first husband was very different. A naval man who 
had seen life in foreign lands, broad-minded. I can't 
think why he married Louisa! Luckily she was abroad 
all that time with Eulalie. She came home a month too 
late — after I'd gone off with the child." 

"You didn't stay at Weavers, then?" 

"No. Do you care to hear the rest ? It's rather amus- 
ing in some ways." He smiled. "I'm afraid of boring 
you !" 

"I'll stop you the moment that you do." 

"Honest Injun?" he laughed back. "Very well — 
though I feel so lazy after my most excellent supper. 

Well " he paused to finish his coffee. "Where did 

I get to? Oh, I know. I came home from London 
that night, walked up from the station and slipped in 
by the back way. I didn't want any explanations. Time 
enough in the morning, so I doubled up the back stairs 

107 



io8 AUTUMN 

to my old room in the tower where I used to sleep as a 
boy. But as I passed the nursery wing I heard the sound 
of a child crying; that low exhausted sobbing, you 
know — pitiful ! I couldn't stand it. I went in and found 
the mite all alone in the dark. The nurse, I suppose, 
was gossiping in the servants' hall. I couldn't blame 
her — the whole place was upside down. You can g^ess 
that a scandal like that is enough to disorganise a 
quiet house. 

"I soothed Hyacinth by degrees and carried her off to 
my own quarters, leaving a pencilled line to explain. 

"She slept, curled up in my arms all night — such a 
wee soft thing! That began our comradeship. I lay 
awake, thinking things out. It seemed to me that here 
we were, the pair of us, just — imwanted!" 

His voice grew a trifle hoarse on the word. 

'7 know " Deirdre's face was full of a keen 

sympathy. It did not escape the Squire's dark eyes, 
but he went on without remark. "I think you'll un- 
derstand what I mean when I say I was utterly sick of 
women! I vowed I'd bring the child up to be some- 
thing different if I could. To speak the truth and think 
the truth — to abhor sham in every form; to be fear- 
less and unashamed, with the candid outlook of a boy. 

"She was all that was left to me out of the wredc 
of my own youth. An odd thing, when you think of it, 
that a woman like Eulalie, feigning love, utterly frivo- 
lous, dreading childbirth, could yet produce this perfect 
creature — for perfect she was from her golden head to 
her tiny feet. Nature is wonderful in her ways! She 
preserves the balance — against man's folly. . . ." 

For a moment he was silent; then he took up his 
story once more. 

"I saw my father in the morning. Poor old boy — ^he 
was very quaint ! He hated the notion of divorce. We'd 
done all sorts of mad things, but somehow we'd stopped 
short at that. On the other hand, he was fiercely anxious 
to get in the first blow. He had the vaguest ideas on 
the subject with confused notions of law in America. 
He thought that Kellogg, once home a^in, could blacken 
the name of Mesurier and sail in with flying colours! 



AUTUMN 109 

"He sent for his solicitor and the tedious legal busi- 
ness began. I left it all in his hands, spending most 
of my spare time with Hyacinth, watching the nurse 
and learning the ways of a child. My secret plan was 
gathering shape as the long days and nights dragged 
on. 

"Then came the tragic news. That finished every- 
thing! My old father was awfully good but he could 
not hide the relief he felt. My one thought was to get 
away. I remember that old Pontef ract — 'Parson Jack' he 
used to be called, a sportsman of the finest type — was 
the only one who approved my project. He broke 
down my father's objections. I went off with the child, 
alone." 

He paused and Deirdre, surprised, spoke the thought 
in her mind. 

"Without a nurse?" 

"Yes." He laughed. "I'll never forget the first day 
I gave her her tub and tried to dress her! Such a 
hopeless confusion of buttons; she used to wear long 
gaiters with eighteen to each leg! But Hyacinth was 
wild with delight. She was just old enough, you see, 
to look upon it as a game. She was very healthy, luckily 
— a dear mite, full of life. 

"You should have seen her down in Spain, where we 
drifted later in the year and she first learned to love 
the sea. She used to go in on my shoulder, laughing for 
joy as the waves splashed up, naked as the day she was 
born, with her bright hair in a halo about her. She 
never knew the false shame of lectures on modesty; 
she was like a healthy young animal, glorying in a 
sense of freedom. 

"I taught her to love her Mother Earth — wind-swept 
spaces and open skies — ^to know the birds and the trees 
and the flowers, to run bare-footed, swift as a boy. And 
little by little I started lessons. But we always treated 
them like games ! She picked up languages easily as we 
wandered through France into Italy. One of our games 
was to vie with each other in finding as many words 
as we could to express the same object and later on to 
translate the same idea. In this way sVvt S^^v^ ^xcSiCkKo^ 



no AUTUMN 

in Southern tongues rapidly. It was so quaint to hear 
her talk in her babyish way — polyglot chatter! 

"We avoided all the big towns and lived a sort of 
gipsy life. At last I chartered a small yac^ht and we 
dawdled down the Adriatic through those beautiful 
Greek Isles — days I still recall with delight. Hyacinth, 
of course, was skipper! 

"At Corfu we got a wire saying my father had had 
a stroke. This brought me home post haste. For a time 
the old man rallied and I promised him I'd settle down 
and look after the property. He found his grandchild 
amusing." Mesurier smiled at some recollection. "He 
was rather shocked at her education, but proud of her 
strength and her beauty. He used to be wheeled down 
to the lake and watch her dive into the water. Hyacinth 
was much annoyed because he insisted on a costume! 

"He passed away peacefully one evening in his sleep 
and since then we've lived at the Hall, with an occa- 
sional trip abroad to break the monotony. Of course, I 
got her tutors later — I wouldn't have governesses. 
What do you think of the result?" 

He glanced across at Deirdre. 

"I don't think it could be bettered." Her simple 
answer rang sincere. 

"No? I wonder." His face was thoughtful. "The 
trouble is — ^what lies ahead?" He twisted sideways in 
his chair. "I'm worried — it's very absurd. Lou- 
isa . . ." he paused. "She seems to think I'm acting 
unfairly by the child — that she ought to 'come out* and 
have gaieties." 

"Why don't you put it to Hyacinth?" 

"I have. She says she's perfectly happy-^oesn't want 
to leave Weavers. Hates the idea of a season in town. 
Lord knows I do myself!" 

"She's very young," said Deirdre, "and you've taught 
her to speak the truth, so why question her deci- 
sion?" 

"Fm glad you accept it as final." He nodded his 

head thoughtfully. "It's a relief. I don't want to alter 

our life in any way. I can't bear the thought of Hya- 

dnth being spoilt — her simplicity and her open speech 



AUTUMN III 

— ^by the cant and humbug that underlies so much that 
IS conventional. Yet sometimes I feel that she needs 

now a woman friend " he broke off and glanced 

across at his companion. There was shy appeal in his 
expression. 

"And hasn't she one?" Her earnest eyes were more 
eloquent than her words. 

"You mean that? I know she likes you and I hoped 
. . . May I speak plainly?" 

She nodded and the Squire went on: 

"There are few women I could trust to influence Hya- 
cinth. But you're . . . different I've always felt it. 
You come from the same star as we do. 

"You'll say, perhaps, that our friendship has been a 
sudden, rather erratic affair. I believe that's true of 
all great friendships; they're instinctive from the very 
start. As a proof that I mean what I say, I've never 
talked to any woman as I have to you to-night. I've 
never imagined that I could. . . . Openly — about Eu- 
lalie." 

A little silence fell between them. Deirdre's hands 
were clasped together rather tightly in her lap. The 
lamp behind her sent a glow over her soft ruffled hair, 
drawing out red lights. Her face was half hidden in 
the shadow. 

The Squire watched her, wondering a little, trying 
to read her secret thoughts. 

"Perhaps," he said, "you imagine " 

"No." She leaned forward quickly. "Please don't 
misunderstand me. The truth is you can't guess the 
value of the gift you offer: what your friendship and 
Hyacinth's already have meant to me — the sweetness 
of it I I was utterly lonely when I came here. I wanted 
to creep away and forget ... all sorts of painful things 
— ^broken ideals, vanished hopes. I'm not — really — a 
happy woman; perhaps not a very wise one. But if I 
could help, could feel that my life were useful to a fel- 
low creature, it would be the greatest joy to me. I 
mean this — from the depths of my soul. As to my lik- 
ing Hyacinth, there's not much difficulty there." She 
smiled, her mouth in tender curves. "I lost my haaxt 



112 AUTUMN 

to her long ago ! So if I can be of any use — to her, or 
you . . ." she hesitated. 

"You are — ^already." He stood up, stirred by a curi- 
ous restlessness. "May I come to you when I want 
advice? It's sometimes hard to be father and mother 
and pal all rolled into one." He laughed, then his face 
went grave again. "Thank Heaven she has no secrets! 
I don't think she'd ever deceive me. But she's grow- 
ing up — ay de mi! She's no longer just a child. And 
she mtist be happy. I've learnt my lesson. There's no 
love based on regrets. If she wants gaiety, balls and 
so forth" — he shrugged his shoulders — ^"she'll have to 
have them. I've never denied her anything that wasn't 
against the laws of health." 

"But some day she must learn denial. It can't be 
roses all the way." 

"It ought to be. It's man's fault if he chooses to 
gather only the thorns." 

His voice was so calm and confident that Deirdre 
glanced up, surprised, at the dark face with its strong 
mouth and the brilliant eyes, full of dancing lights. 

"Then you don't believe ^" she paused for a mo- 
ment — "that we're put here in order to suffer and work 
out our salvation through it?" 

"Never!" He flung out the word like a challenge. 
"I wouldn't insult the Almighty by imputing such an 
idea to Him. You've only to look at the unspoilt things 
— the mountains, the sea, the birds and the flowers — to 
recognise the original scheme : beauty and love and hap- 
piness. To remember that when the earth was made 
the morning stars sang together and the 'sons of God 
shouted for joy.'" 

He went on with a whimsical smile. 

"If your theory held water, why did the Garden of 
Eden exist? God could have planked down Adam and 
Eve in the back yard of some hideous town!" 

Deirdre laughed. She could not resist it. 

"I might suggest that, so far as we know, towns were 
not invented then." 

"Exactly. And isn't it obvious that if we'd been in- 
tended to live huddled up in foul air they'd have held 



AUTUMN 113 

their place in the Creation? For God saw that all was 
good . . . that is, beautiful. Was beauty meant to 
produce sorrow — or happiness?" His voice was tri- 
umphant. 

"Then, if so . . . why?" She threw out her hands 
with a gesture of faint despair. 

"My dear child, we've muddled it." He stood smil- 
ing down at her, and she felt his subtle dominance: the 
odd charm of the man. "We've woven all sorts of sense- 
less rules around the original conception. I'm inclined 
to think marriage is one ! But perhaps it's only modem 
conditions ? The most pernicious to my mind is the glori- 
fication of martyrdom. I'm not referring to the Saints. 
According to them they had all to gain by their suffer- 
ings and I shrewdly suspect that fanaticism brings in its 
wake an anaesthetic for physical pain. You have only to 
study Eastern religions — tne Yogi is a good example and 
the Dancing Dervish is another. 

"What I refer to is the way children are taught to be 
unselfish, to cramp their natural, healthy desires and 
be proud of the fact — little humbugs! They rarely 
combine altruism with a sane and healthy happiness and 
this produces morbidity, an unnatural tax on existence. 
They pretend they like to be unselfish and grow up hug- 
ging a lie." 

"Then, granted that, where's the remedy?" 

"Ah. , . !" The Squire moved across with a quick 
step to the window. He opened it wide and let the air 
blow in, fresh and sweet, with the savour of the rain- 
washed earth. 

"Come here." 

She followed him obediently and, conscious of the 
same impulse, leaned out of the narrow casement, feel- 
ing the breeze play on her face. 

For a moment they stayed there, drinking it in, their 
shoulders touching, perfectly still. 

"You mean" — ^she spoke in a whisper, awed by the 
beauty of the night — ^"we should get back to Nature's 
laws?" 

Mesurier smiled, well content. 

"You don't find humbug there. She te,^£!tv^ ^sw^ V:^ 



114 AUTUMN 

think straight. To live one's life outside convention, to 
be pitiful to weaker creatures, to glory in one's own 
strength. To be happy, in fact, being one's self. Not a 
poor copy of a man hedged in by half-truths and the 
fear of the world's opinion. To air one's soul and 
one's body — to be mortal, not ape divinity." 

"And you're happy?" She moved sideways to glance 
at the face of the speaker. 

"I try to be," he said simply. "It's really a part of 
my religion." 

"Then you never look back?" As she uttered the 
words she felt a sudden twinge of remorse. But Mesu- 
rier did not fear the knife. He answered her with the 
same candour. 

"Not willingly. I look forward. It's the habit of a 
gardener. One labours and sweats and sows the seed 
and leaves the miracle to God. If only people would do 
that instead of dabbling in metaphysics!" 

"You don't think it's any good leading a life you 
feel is unnatural for the sake of any influence you may 
have on a fellow-being?" 

The Squire laid a hand on her arm. "Does he want 
the influence?" he asked. "Yield to it — reap comfort 
from it?" 

'No." The word was dragged from her. 

'And meanwhile it is cramping you — ^wearing you 
out with the strain?" 

She wondered at his intuition. 

"But that might be my own weakness." 

"That's a side-issue," he frowned slightly. "It's the 
same old question I'm putting to you. Does it lead to 
happiness? For either or for both of you?" 

She shook her head mournfully. 

"Then break away. Give Nature a chance. I don't 
believe in human patching. But I do believe in mira- 
cles." His hand tightened on her arm. 

Again a silence fell between them. Far away over 
the church a single star shone clear above the drift- 
ing, ragged clouds. From the earth rose the benediction 
of plant and flower, fresh from the rain. 

"Hyacinth has been one to me," Mesurier went on 



4t' 
it 



AUTUMN 



"5 



softly. "Before all that hopeless business I never 
guessed what a child could mean. It's drawn me nearer 
to the earth — I've won a simpler conception of life. 
I've learnt after all my hours of rebellion to place 
faith in a woman again. She has never deceived me; 
she never will. She's loyal to the depth of her soul 
— ^mine, all mine, in a sense my work — in more than 
one way my salvation. 

"So you see" — his hand fell from her arm — "what 
one of your sex took away another gave back — ^the law 
of balance. And now, just as I'm feeling worried" 
— he smiled down into her face — "a friend drops out 
of the blue sky, with a little bit of it left in her eyes: 
the blue of the evening, deep as a violet." 

He laughed lightly as though to cover a note of tender- 
ness in his voice. 

"Good night. Blue Eyes ! I'm going home — comforted. 
Sleep well." 

Before she could answer he had gone, light-footed, 
noiseless and swift. 



CHAPTER XII 

"And who is Mrs. Caradoc?" 

Under the speaker's heavy weight the garden chair 
creaked ominously and the Rector's wife gave the sup- 
ports an anxious glance, her thoughts divided. 

But Mrs. Byng^s imperious eyes were demanding an 
immediate response. They seemed to say : "Keep to the 
subject. If I fall, I fall! — ^but I will have an answer." 

"I really don't know much about her." Mrs. Gage's 
freckled face, flushed with her recent |;ame of tennis, 
took on a still deeper shade as her visitor said in a 
tone of reproof: 

"But I understood that the Rector had met some of 
her people somewhere?" 

"Oh, yes. I quite forgot." Mrs. Gage looked apolo- 
getic. "In a former parish — ^years ago. Her mother-in- 
kw — her husband too." 

"Then there is a husband?" The catechism recom- 
menced ruthlessly. 

Mrs. Gage, helpless, assented. She feared and dis- 
liked the member's wife, yet was flattered by this sud- 
den visit She liked the thought that the Gorseton 
Manor car was now outside her gate for the village to 
note; as it certainly would! 

What added to her nervousness was the fact that her 
partner in the game, interrupted by Mrs. Byng, was a 
Kilby youth whom the grand lady could not be ex- 
pected to recognise. 

He could be seen on the other side of the tennis 
lawn, industriously hunting for a missing ball on the 
border of the kitchen garden. 

"If only he has the sense to stay there!" Mrs. Gage, 
with half her mind, observed to herself as she debated 
with the remainder of the meagre brains at her posses- 
sion whether her attitude towards Mrs. Caradoc should 
be "protective" — or the reverse! 

ii6 



AUTUMN 117 

"My niece, Hyacinth Mesurier, has never once seen 
the husband/' Mrs. B3mg was driving on with her 
sledge-hammer detective work. 

On her way to the Hall, over the hedge, she had 
caught sight of the Rector's wife and decided to run 
the latter to earth and ferret out all she could about 
this new and sudden friendship for an unknown (and 
pretty) stranger. 

''I understand Mr. Caradoc is a busy man.'' Mrs. 
Gage darted a look at the dread lady of the Manor. 
"He finds it rather difficult to get away just now from 
town." 

"In August?" Mrs. Byng sniffed. 

It was a frequent habit of hers ; but she did it grandly, 
like all her actions. Her high arched nose, with its 
fine-cut nostrils was the most marked feature of her 
face. It balanced the preponderance of chin which Time 
had seen fit to double. She was fully as tall as the 
Squire, but older and heavier; a massive woman with 
iron-grey hair and straight black brows under which a 
pair of piercing eyes raked the world arotmd her with 
conscious hauteur. 

"And what does he do?" she went on severely. 

"He's an architect, I believe." 

"Oh." It was said with condescension. 

Mrs. Gage, whose father had been a Kilby builder, 
fidgetted. 

"Nice people, my husband tells me. Old Mrs. Cara- 
doc was thought a good deal of in the place where 

tihey lived. Quite the old-fashioned type " She 

paused. 

"And this one — from all accounts— quite the new!" 

At last the Rector's wife had her clue. 

"Unconventional, perhaps, though, of course, it doesn't 
do to judge from first impressions." She smiled, pensive. 
"But it certainly seems a trifle strange that she lives there 
all alone." She twisted the racket in her hands. "I've 
seen very little of her. I called — ^my husband wished 
me to— and dear Mrs. Pontefract went with me, but 
I can't say that we, either of us, found very much in 
common." 



ii8 AUTUMN 

, "She doesn't play tennis, perhaps?" Mrs. Byng*s 
dark eyes were blank and her voice was smooth. It 
was difficult to detect if a joke were intended. 

But Mrs. Gage had her suspicions. 

"No — o, I don't think so." Her round, hot face — ^not 
unlike a tortoise-shell cat's — ^beneath its halo of russet 
hair wore a slightly shrewish expression. 

"She appears to spend most of her time gardening 
— or rather learning it — up at the Hall. Of course, Mr. 
Mesurier is such an authority on the subject." 

The deck-chair creaked again. 

"So I understand from Hyacinth. She's been staying 
with me for a week-end." 

Mrs. Byng stared straight ahead across the well-kept 
tennis court. The other's eyes, following hers, made out 
the back of the youth from Kilby on all fours, with 
racket outstretched, burrowing under a gooseberry bush. 

"My niece has taken a fancy to her and you know 
what my brother is — so kind-hearted !" Again came that 
aristocratic sniff. "We're on our way there now. I've 
my son home for three days' leave." She rose as she 
spoke. "I promised him I would only stay a few min- 
utes." 

"But won't he come in and have some tea?" 

Out of the comer of her eye Mrs. Gage could see 
her partner strolling towards them across the grass, his 
hair rufffed, a vivid tie — in the Kilby Cridcet Club 
colours — floating from under his left ear, pleased ex- 
pectancy on his face. 

So it was with inward relief that she saw her guest 
was bent on departure. 

"Most annoying," she said to herself. "If only she'd 
called yesterday she'd have found the Borodailes play- 
ing here. But it's just like her to peer through the hedge 
and catch me at a disadvantage!" 

"I've stopped your tennis quite long enough," Mrs. 
Byng was saying sweetly. "Remember me to the Rec- 
tor. I suppose he's busy — in the parish." 

Mrs. Gage could have slapped her. She was well 
aware that local opinion condemned her for her love of 
the game and the way in which it clashed at times with 



AUTUMN 119 

what the village called her "duty." Only her friend, 
Mrs. Pontefract, was sympathetic on the subject and 
agreed smoothly when Dora Gage with her most pussy- 
cat expression would declare vehemently : "I was never 
meant for a clerg3anan's wife!" 

"And your little girl — where is she now? I haven't 
seen her for some time." Mrs. Byng was marking time 
as she billowed down the short drive. 

"She's with my sister by the sea. We thought a 
change would do her good. I think she's worked too 
hard at school." 

"Growing too fast," Mrs. Byng decided. 

The car stood in the road beyond. In the driving 
seat a slim young man was smoking a cigarette. He 
sprang down at their approach. 

"Hullo, Mrs. Gage! How are you? Flourishing? 
You look it." He shook hands warmly. "Now, Mater, 
up you skip I We're ever so late. . . . There she goes !" 
He hoisted her in with a breezy laugh. 

The rector's wife smiled broadly behind her ponderous 
visitor's back. She knew of old that this only son was 
the one person in the world who refused to treat the 
local tyrant with the deference she expected. 

"Quite comfy?" He tucked the end of her drab coat 
in neatly and smiled lovingly up at her. 

"Yes, my dear," said Mrs. Byng. "Now, remember, 
I don't like going fast." 

"Righto !" He started the engine and slipped into the 
seat beside her. 

"Good-bye, Mrs. Gage. Give my love to the Rector." 
And they were off with a faint desire on the part of the 
car to run backwards. 

The sandy-haired woman stood for a moment watch- 
ing them breast the hill and disappear out of sight. 

*'He's a nice boy — ^that young Trollope. Odd he 
should be a son of hers! I suppose he takes after his 
father, the old admiral. ' 'Up you skip* !" She echoed 
the words. "I must really tell Meg that. An insuffer- 
able woman, Mrs. Byng! I hate her more each time I 
see her." 

She started as a voice behind called her b^ tv^xxv^ -^sA^ 






120 AUTUMN 

turning, saw the Rector wheeling his bicycle wearily up 
the steep incline. 

"Bpther !" she said to herself. "Now, of course, he'll 
wane his tea. We shall never get that sett finished." 

She moved to meet him reluctantly. 

Gage's serious face brightened. 

"I've been to see Eliza Trippett. She's worse to-day, 
poor woman. I think we must send her something, Dora 
— good soup or some meat jelly. The doctor says her 
life depends on keeping up her slender strength." He 
slipped a hand through his wife's arm as they turned in 
at tiie Rectory gate. 

'Will you see to it?" as she made no response. 

'Really, Jim," Mrs. Gage frowned, "it's very tiresome 
just now. Cook is making jam this week. And you 
know what she is !" 

"Shall I talk to her?" 

"No, for goodness' sake, don't! You'll only make 
things worse. Oh, dear !" she sighed deeply. 

"It's a sad case," pleaded Gage. "Do try and manage 
it, Dora. If not" — his face brightened — ^"I wonder if 
Mrs. Caradoc " 

His wife wheeled round, surprised. 

"Mrs. Caradoc ?" She stared. "What has she got to 
do with it?" 

"Didn't I tell you? I'm sure I meant to. She's an 
acquisition in the parish. She finds out where help is 
needed through Mrs. Slack and is most generous. Wise, 
too— not indiscriminate. I ran across her at poor Bow- 
ley's when that child of his was knocked down by a mo- 
tor just outside her door. Since then, several times I've 
found her doing good by stealth. She's a nice woman. 
I like her extremely." 

"Dear me I I ought to be jealous I" His wife laughed 
a little shrilly. "It's odd you should be talking of her. 
I've just had Mrs. Byng here, putting me through a 
catechism as to the lady's social credentials. As a matter 
of fact, I think Mrs. Byng is rather nervous about the 
Squire. Mrs. Caradoc's always there." . She said the 
words with obvious meaning. 

"And why not.^" asked the Rector, "If you ask me, 



AUTUMN 121 

I think it's what Hyacinth needs — a woman friend. Fm 
glad to hear of the intimacy." 

"Yes — if it's only Hyacinth !" Mrs. Gage looked mys- 
terious. "Chris Pontefract, too, I hear, finds her friend- 
ship a solace. A pity. You know how dear Meg has 
had to suffer in the past. As for the Squire, thars his 
own lookout. He's above all conventions. We realize 
that!" She laughed with a touch of malice. "All the 
same it's hardly wise for him to be seen coming out of 
Mrs. Caradoc's gate at midnight. Yes, that's a fact! 
Luke Gubbins told Fanny all about it. He was fetching 
the doctor to his wife a week ago when she was con- 
fined, and he saw it, with his own eyes. I really think it's 
a little imprudent." 

The Rector's face went suddenly stem. 

"Perhaps Gubbins mistook the time. And besides, if 
Hyacinth was with him, I don't see why they shouldn't 
stay to any hour, if they chose to." 

"She wasn't," his wife responded quickly. "It was 
the week-end that she spent at Gorseton. Whilst we are 
on this subject, Jim, can you tell me why Mr. Caradoc 
never comes down to Four Comers' ?" 

"I understand that he's too busy. He can't get away 
from his office." 

"In August?" She echoed Mrs. Byng. 

"Yes. I suppose with his profession they take ad- 
vantage of fine weather." 

"I ought to know all about that !" She laughed lightly 
as the Rector placed his bicycle in the pordi and fol- 
lowed her across the lawn. 

One of her idiosyncrasies was to pretend since his 
death that her father had been an architect. It helped 
her in her social schemes. 

She had this in common with "Mrs. Chris" — ^a pro- 
found mistmst of that wide gulf which separates "town" 
from "county." Both of them had lived in Kilby in their 
early days — ^and strove to forget it! 

Mrs. Pontefract had been the only child of a local 
brewer. A prosperous man, he had tumed his business 
into a company and retired to an ornate country-house 
he had built three miles out of VJea.\eis, ^X-eajSiX^ '^^o^x- 



122 AUTUMN 

ing land until at last he had needed an agent. Ponte- 
fract had filled the post and eventually married the rich 
man's daughter, despite the disparity in their ages and— 
still more serious — in their outlook. 

Meg Saunders had been at school with Dora Shadwell 
It was a friendship in a sense based on defence. Both 
ambitious, they had felt the difficulties facing them. The 
rich but ugly girl had helped the poor but more attrac- 
tive one, mounting her, lending her finery, and in return 
the latter had drawn to the great, empty, gorgeous house 
a scattering of single men amused by Dora's kittenish 
ways. 

The bachelor Rector had succumbed in a weak moment 
to these charms. To the surprise of the whole county 
Pontef ract had followed suit, marrying "that Saimders 
girl !" 

Heaven alone knew to what straits he was put before 
he swallowed the bait. 

His father had held the living at the gift of the late 
squire, Chris being the youngest of six sons and three 
daughters. 

"Parson Jack" had been dearly loved; but the 
Pontefracts had another claim to local considera- 
tion. The sporting Rector had been born at Gorseton 
Manor in the days when his father was Master of 
the Hounds. The house had been theirs for three gen- 
erations. 

He had come to grief financially through no fault of 
his own, save the minor effects of a large hospitality, in 
a terrible year of bank failures. 

Many people had been ruined when Kilby was added 
to the list and the Manor had gone with the rest under 
the auctioneer's hammer. 

Later on Byng had bought it when, two years after 
the admiral's death, he had married Mesurier's widowed 
sister and decided to stand for the county. 

Chris was immensely popular; not so his rich wife. 
She was tactless, stupid and wildly jealous. She quar- 
relled with half the women around because they were 
friendly with her husband. 

He tried hard to keep the peace, but resented the fact 



AUTUMN 123 

that his wife's lectures were followed up by the drastic 
measure of cutting down his pocket money. 

She could not bear Chris out of her sight and her want 
of confidence drove the man into petty deceits that were 
foreign to him in his dealings with his boyhood friends. 
Then a sudden stroke of luck altered their relative posi- 
tions. A distant cousin, sorry for Chris, left him a small 
but regular income. Meg*s martyrdom began. 

Chris would dash up to town, disappear for week- 
ends shooting with people who omitted an invitation for 
the wife, and return to meet sullen temper, hysterical 
outbursts and angry words. 

Mrs. Gage was the confidante, the Rector a hopeless 
go-between. In the depths of his heart he pitied Chris, 
but dared not suggest it to his wife. The greatest sorrow 
in his life was connected with his own marriage. For 
Dora was a broken reed where parish matters were con- 
cerned. 

It pained him, too, to realize how gossip was fanned 
under his roof between his wife and her ally. A quiet, 
studious, earnest man, he shrank closer into his shell. 
Interference did no good. He bore a heavy burden at 
times. 

Now, as they walked across the lawn to the big pear 
tree beneath which tea was laid, he realized that this new 
parishioner of his, whom he liked and respected, was 
learning to trust and in a dim way recognised as a possi- 
ble help and comfort to him, would be tabooed at the rec- 
tory. 

He felt annoyed with the Squire. He had had a curi- 
ous premonition in his first meeting with Deirdre, when 
they had discussed the former, that the pair were bound 
to become friends. He himself had wondered about 
the husband and his non-appearance. Of course it 
had not missed his wife. He foresaw endless tittle- 
tattle. 

A sudden hope crossed his mind. 

"How do you know*' — he turned to her — "that Cara- 
doc has not been here ? He might run down for a night 
without our being any the wiser." 

"I doubt it — in Weavers!" She laughed shrillY* 



{ 



124 AUTUMN 

"Besides, Nurse saw Mrs. Slack at the Mothers' Meet- 
ing last Tuesday and she made a point of asking 
her." 

"Well?" The Rector's heart sank. Even his servants 
were used as spies ! He felt a man's sudden disgust for 
the sex as a whole with their devious ways. 

"Oh, you know what Mrs. Slack is! A detestable 
woman. She said something vague about she 'never chat- 
tered in a house where she worked.' The impertinent 
creature ! ("Good for her," the Rector thought.) But of 
coursed* — she underlined the word — "if he had been 
there, she'd have mentioned it, if only to get a rise out of 
nurse. Here comes Charlie, poor boy! Mrs. Byng 
spoiled our tennis." 

The Rector moved forward courteously. 

"How are you?" He shook the hand extended to him 
with a faint repugnance — ^, sticky hand, with torn nails 
that offended his own fastidiousness. 

"Pretty fit Just dropped in for a knock-up with Ma- 
dame'* He caught the Rector's wandering eye and 
straightened the red and emerald tie. 

"Ran across on my motor-bike. They're spiffing 
things. You ought to have one. Buzz along in no time, 
though they rattle up your liver a bit." 

"Combining hygiene and pleasure?" The Rector 
smiled perseveringly. "Well, don't let me stop your 
playing. He saw the youth's face clear. 

"No," said Mrs. Gage quickly. "Come along; we'll 
finish that sett before tea. It's my serve." 

She was off, rolling up her sleeves. 

"I found that ball, old girl," the Rector heard the 
youth say cheerfully, as they crossed the grass and took 
up their old positions. 

His thoughts went back to his own work. 

"She'll never remember about that soup. After Fve 
had mv tea I think I'll go down to Mrs. Caradoc I 
might be able to give her a hint. Mesurier should know 
better. But oh! for a little charity!" He sighed as he 
watched the ball fly straight and swift from his wife's 
racket "And Chris Pontef ract ... as well ! I sec end- 
less trouble ahead." 



AUTUMN 125 

Mrs. Caradoc, unaware of the Rector's troubled 
sympathy and the speculation she had aroused among 
the gossips of the village, had passed the morning with 
her friends working at the new rock garden. Now, with 
that pleasant laziness which succeeds a fit of enerey, 
she lay back in a deck chair under the cedar's grateful 
shade, Mesurier stretched on the grass at her feet, watch- 
ing a flight of swallows dip and circle over the Hall's 
grey roof. 

Hyacinth sat, hugging her knees, a book open on her 
lap. She was reading aloud in her clear young voice 
from a little volume of Celtic verse. The air was drowsy 
with the htmi of insect life and from the tree a warm 
resinous odour rose as the sun pierced through to the dry 
bark. 

"There's a Rosie Show in Derry, 

An' a Rosie Show in Down; 

An' 'tis like there's wan I'm thinkin' 

'111 be held in Randalstown. 

But if I had the choosin' 

Av a Rosie prize the day, 

'Twould be a pink wee rosie 

Like he plucked whin rakin' hay. 

Yon pink wee rosie in my hair — 

He fixt it troth — an' kissed it there! 

White gulls wor wheelin' roun' the sky, 
Down by — Down by." 

The girl paused and Mesurier uttered a sleepy "That's 
pretty," and shifted slightly in order to get a better 
view of Deirdre's face. 

"Ay, there's rosies sure in Derry, 
An' there's famous wans in Down; 
Och there's rosies all a hawkin' 
Through the heart of London town I 
But if I had the liftin' 
Or" 

"RoUof" ... She broke off dismayed. "It can't 
be. . . . Yes, it is I It's Aunt Byng." 

"Oh, my Lord!" He raised himself with a groan. 
Through the open French window, held stiffly back by 
the butler, a vast form billowed, dtscKcA^^ ^^ ^Xfc^'^. 



126 AUTUMN 

and advanced like a frigate with all sails set across the 
turf in their direction. 

The breeze caught her dust cloak and filled it gro- 
tesquely. 

"Do I dream," Mesurier murmured, "or is she twins ?" 
Now, we're in for it ! There's no escape — except up the 
tree." 

"Get up!" said Hyacinth. "Don't let her say we 
weren't polite. She'd simply love it ! Go and meet her." 

But the Squire was in a willful mood. 

"Mark how she moves — there goes a daisy, flat as a 
pancake ! Where's Olga ? Don't let her step on that by 
chance !" 

Hyacinth resigned herself. Slipping the book under 
her arm she moved forward to greet the intruder. 

"Why, Aunt Louisa, this is a surprise!" She lifted 
her face for the dreaded "peck." "Yes — we're all here 
— under the tree." 

"So Chivers told me." Mrs. Byng swept on, vast and 
impressive. 

With an effort RoUo rose to his feet. 

"Welcome to Arcady!" His mischievous eyes ran 
over her. "Will you lie on the grass with me, Louisa, 
or take this chair?" 

"One minute!" Hyacinth pounced on a tiny object 
and with great care replaced it on a branch above her 
head. "A caterpillar," she explained. "You might have 
hurt it." Rollo chuckled. 

"Do you know Mrs. Caradoc?" 

Mrs. Byng's face stiffened. 
^ "No." She held out her hand, large but well-shaped, 
tightly encased in a worn dog-skin glove. "But I've 
heard of you," she added suavely. 

She settled herself heavily on the chair beside Deirdre, 
who was choking down inward mirth. 

For with the action she recalled a chance phrase of 
Hyacinth's : 

"She sits down like a poached eg^ — and one feels so 
sorry for the toast!" 

"Ralph drove me over," the member's wife went on, 
'*m the runabout. He's taking it round to the stables. 



AUTUMN 127 

There's a loose nut, I understand, and he thought your 
man could put it right." 

"Ralph ? How jolly !" cried Hyacinth. "When did he 
come ? Is he staying long ?" 

"Only three days/' her aunt replied. Then turning to 
Mrs. Caradoc: 

"And how do you like Weavers ?*' she began her cate- 
chism. "I hear you've taken Four Comers." 

"Yes. I think it's a dear little place — so restful." 
Deirdre's voice was cool and composed. She felt in- 
stinctively an aggressive note in the inquiry. 

Mrs. Byng had the knack by a mere inflection of mak- 
ing her audience aware of a certain condescension and 
Deirdre did not intend to be patronised. 

"You don't find it dull— after town?" 

"No; I'm very fond of the country. I was brought 
up in it as a child." 

"Indeed. In what part of England?" 

Deirdre smiled. "In the north." 

Mrs. Byng sniffed at this. She realised an intended 
check, but a faint sense of triumph followed. 

Deirdre easily read her thought : "If she really were 
anybody, she'd mention her county at once." 

Mesurier had flung himself down on the smooth old 
lawn again. He was watching the pair under narrowed 
lids. About him was the subtle suggestion of some lithe 
and sinewy wooded creature, waiting, half-hidden, to 
spring on a foe. 

"Perhaps you hunt?" Mrs. Byng continued. 

"No." In a rather absent voice Deirdre ran on : "Nor 
shoot, nor fish, nor golf." She stopped as Hyacinth 
rushed in to defend her. 

"But she swims splendidly, Aunt Louisa. She beat 
Rollo yesterday! Of course he gave her a short start, 
but they raced right across the lake to where the swan 
has its nest." 

Mesurier's face went suddenly blank. 
^ "It's a fact," he said very gravely. "You mayn't be- 
lieve it, but if you like to come round one of these morn- 
ings we'll give you an exhibition, Louisa." 

"I can't understand it," Hyacinth added. "RoUo's 



128 AUTUMN 

legs are much longer than hers. And that makes a lot 
of difference. He gets such a reach, too, with his arms." 

"But perhaps Tm lighter," suggested Deirdre. A dim- 
ple came and went in her cheek. She mastered a strong 
desire to laugh. "That may tell in fresh water." 

Mrs. Byng, she decided, looked like an elephant carved 
in stone. Mesurier, thoughtfully, was nibbling the tip of 
a blade of grass. 

Luckily at this juncture there came a "Hullo !" across 
the lawn and the swift approach of a youthful figure. 

Hyacinth waved. 

"Here's the sailor boy!" 

Deirdre gave a little start. The brown face with the 
laughing eyes, blue as her own, was familiar. 

Suddenly a memory flashed up into her brain — ^a 
crowded "At Home" at the Hyde Park Hotel in tiie far- 
off heat and dust of London. 

Before she had time to collect her thoughts Mrs. 
Byng's son had joined the group. 

"Well, Bluebell, how are you? And Uncle Rollo— 
going strong — ^and . . . well, I'm blest!" He stared at 
Deidre. ''You here! How awfully jolly!" Her hand 
was being waved up and down. His simple pleasure was 
good to see. "Who'd have thought it? He turned to 
his mother. "I say, Mater — you never told me — ^Thurs- 
by's sister! You remember Jack? He stayed with us 
one year, shooting. Lord — ^what a happy family !" 

Mesurier with shaking shoulders buried his face in 
the grass. For his sister's face was a picture to see, 
politeness struggling with disapproval; but she felt her 
son's eyes upon her. 

"Really? I didn't know myself. Then you were" — 
she turned to Deirdre — "a Miss Thursby of Bamards- 
dale?" 

"In the North," the Squire murmured. 

Hyacinth gazed from one to the other, puzzling it out 

"But you never told me you knew Ralph" — ^her voice 
was reproachful— "and I've talked about him lots of 
times." 

"I didn't realise it before," Deirdre explained quickly. 
"I always imagined the name was Byng." She caught 



AUTUMN 129 

as she spoke a warning look on the young man's face, 
grown curiously grave. Suddenly the significance of 
the whole scene swept across her. 

This was the girl — the "Hyacinth" of his confidences — 
the girl he loved! No wonder the name had been fa- 
miliar on their first meeting in the storm. 

But Mrs. Byng was talking again. 

"Dear me, how small the world is." She changed the 
subject rather abruptly. "I hope, RoUo, we're not too 
late for tea. The drive has made me thirsty." Her 
voice was certainly very dry. "Or is it too much to 
expect of Arcady?" 

Rollo signalled to Hyacinth. 

"Rim in and hurry up Chivers. We'll have it. here 
under the cedar." 

Trollope made a movement to follow. Then with a 
glance at Deirdre he checked himself. 

"Do you want to hear the latest news about your 
brother?" He laid a hand upon her chair. 

"Please." 

He went on hurriedly : 

"I've got a good yarn about him for you. Not sure 
it's fit for the maters ears !" He laughed as he spoke. 
"If you'll come for a turn on the lower terrace— or are 
you too lazy?" 

"I'll come." She rose from her seat. Her mind was 
still following up a thread from the past 

What had he said, about a rivsd ... a "married 
manS' Again the old dread revived as they strolled 
across the velvety turf. 

She had never forgotten the glimpse she had caught 
of clandestine romance that night in the wood. Again 
and again it returned to her mind with the unanswered 
question : who was the girl ? 

At length she persuaded herself — 2l little convinced de- 
spite her repugnance by a gossiping story of Mrs. Gage's, 
in which Chris had figured as Don Juan — that it must 
have been some sordid affair with one of the servants 
at the Hall. 

She had met Pontefract often since then and had stud- 
ied him in Hyacinth's presence. But tvolVvvw^ vsv^^^rbs^^ 



130 AUTUMN 

her suspicion. They laughed, they chaflFed, they quar- 
relled together, made it up and started afresh. Chris 
was old enough to remember Hyacinth as a tiny child. 
He declared he had rocked her in her cradle! — ^but this 
was a flight of fancy. He stood exactly halfway in age 
between her and her father and it made him a friend of 
both and one of the few intimate neighbours whom 
Mesurier affected. 

Mrs. Pontefract never came to the Hall save on a for- 
mal errand and Deirdre had a shrewd suspicion that 
Chris fotmd the place a refuge from his wife's jealous 
monopoly. 

TroUope was studying her expression as they saun- 
tered along side by side. 

"I rather wanted to talk to you. That was a trumped- 
up story about your brother. I knew you'd guess. You 
don't mind?" 

'*Of course not.'* She hesitated; then decided to be 
frank. 

"I've only just realised that Hyacinth is . . . the lady ! 
I don't wonder you thought her sweet. I'm quite in 
love with her myself.'' 

"Are you?" He flashed her a smile. "So you haven't 
forgotten our conversation?" 

"No. I would like to wish you luck." 

"That's nice of you, but I'm afraid I don't stand an 
earthly chance. A cousin is too much like a brother! 
As a matter of fact, she used those words when I hinted 
at it in the Autumn." 

"But girls often change their minds." Deirdre looked 
so sympathetic that the boy suddenly stopped and faced 
her as they reached the secluded lower terrace. 

"Not Hyacinth !" he said. "She's like her father in 
that respect. How long have you known her?" 

In a few words she explained their meeting and sub- 
sequent friendship. 

"It's very odd — like a fairy-tale !" Trollope said, when 
she had finished. "My running across you in town, 
never dreaming you'd get to know her, and then your 

coming down here. Of course, if I'd guessed " 

He broke off, confused. 



AUTUMN 131 

She helped him out courageously : 

"You wouldn't have mentioned her Christian name," 
and added slowly, "or other matters ?" 

"No, of course not !" He fidgeted. "Fact is, I can't 
remember quite what I said. It worries me." 

"About" — she decided to brave things out — " a rival — 
some . . . married man." 

With a quick gesture he caught her up. 

"That's it. I've kicked myself ever smce for speaking 
of it. Because, you see, I'm quite certain it was a mis- 
take — my mistake. I'm a perfect ass over Hyacinth — 
jealous of every man she meets! He was just a pal, 
like all the rest. She never told me anything, but I got 
it into my silly head that this chap was the cause. Since 
then I've learned better. She looks on all men as broth- 
ers. It's a part of her . . . holy innocence," 

Deirdre smiled back relieved. She was touched, too, 
by the way that this boy had lowered his voice on the 
last words. 

"I agree with you. She's still a child — ^a dear child. 
I'm very thankful. You see her father trusts her to me 
a good deal. He's wrapped up in her. I'd hate to have 
any suspicions — ^you know what I mean ? — and keep them 
from him. But one must be sure in a case like this. I'm 
so glad you've spoken out." 

He looked at her searchingly. 

"/'m sure. Will you believe me ? Besides — if it's any 
comfort to you — the man I referred to has gone away." 

He saw her last doubt vanish. 

Her face cleared and she nodded her head. 

"Then the field's clear for you?" she suggested, faint 
mischief in her eyes. 

"With three days' leave?" His voice was rueful. "I 
say — shall we go back?" His transparent eagerness 
amused her. 

"Yes. You mustn't miss a minute!" She laughed 
and Trollope joined in. 

"You are a brick — aren't you?" They turned and re- 
traced their steps together. "I'm awfully glad you're her 
friend. How do you like Uncle RoUo? He's a rum 
chap, most people think. But one of the best when you 



133 AUTUMN 

know him. I was surprised to see you here ! He's not 
exactly a lady's man !" 

"I don't wonder." The words slipped out. 

TroUope nodded. 

"Rough luck! My mother's always worrying him to 
marry again, for the sake of the place. But a burnt 
child dreads the fire. I suppose that's how he feels 
about it." 

They came into sight of the little group under the 
cedar where the servants were arranging the tea things. 
Mesurier still lay on the grass, leaving his guests' enter- 
tainment lazily to his daughter. He resented this sud- 
den invasion and the curiosity he divined in Mrs. Bjmg's 
attitude towards Deirdre. He was not in one of his hap- 
piest moods. 

"Ah, there you are !" Hyacinth cried. "We began to 
think that you'd eloped." 

"Not this time." The sailor laughed. "Though we've 
been through many adventures together! Haven't we, 
Mrs. Caradoc?" 

His mother gave them a sharp glance. 

"D'you remember that awful party in town ? And the 
old Sphinx?" he ran on. "You saved my life that time 
and I shan't forget it Nor anything else." 

The last three words were sotto voce. They breathed 
honest gratitude and Deirdre gave him a friendly nod, 
in which there lurked a secret shared. 

They were neither of them well skilled in disguising 
the thought of the moment. It seemed to the irate Mrs. 
Byng that "men liked Mrs. Caradoc." 

"A dangerous woman," she said to herself. "I'm in- 
clined to agree with the Rector's wife." 

Deirdre's eyes fell on the Squire. He was watching 
her, too, an odd look, half-cynical, on his face. It star- 
tled her for an instant, and to her annoyance she felt 
the colour rising under her clear skin. 

"He surely doesn't think I'm flirting?" — the thought 
touched her sensitive pride — "With a boy like that!" 
She felt aggrieved. 

Mesurier still stared at her. She looked back deliber- 
3tely—a short, sharp battle of wills. 



AUTUMN 



133 



Then before those brilliant eyes, with their mocking 
sadness and masculine strength, her own fell, with a 
sense of defeat. 

For the moment she almost hated him! 



CHAPTER XIII 

A Sunday calm lay over Weavers. It was the hour of 
digestion, moral and physical, which follows church and 
a mid-day dinner and partakes, not a little, of stupefac- 
tion. 

Deirdre stood at the garden door, looking longingly at 
the orchard, a green patch that suggested shade, and 
debating whether she should go and change into an old 
frock or risk her new one in the hammock. 

It was of muslin, lightly sprigged with a quaint pat- 
tern of cornflowers and her church-going hat of burnt 
straw was wreathed round with the same blossom. She 
caught a glimpse of herself in the glass, as she hesitated, 
feeung the spell of the warm lazy afternoon. 

"A pity to crush it," she said aloud, conscious of the 
cool effect of the crisp flounces; then she yawned, 
stretching her arms over her head. "After all, I've only 
myself to please now, and if I like why shouldn't I wear 
it ? Fve paid for it." The logic seemed extremely sound. 

The sunflowers watched her as she passed, wide-eyed, 
and a brier-bush laid a tentative finger on her skirt, jeal- 
ous of her glowing face, not unlike a rose itself. 

She paused to disentangle the branch and stooped to 
inhale the delicate scent of a tea-rose, warm in the sun, 
that leaned up against its neighbour. 

"You've hardly room to breathe, my dear. We shall 
have to move you in the Autumn. Won't it be a busy 
time !" She began to plan drowsily a hundred and one 
alterations. 

"I must ask the Squire about sweet peas." She lifted 
the latch of the little gate and passed on across the grass 
to where between two apples trees a hammock was slung 
with a yellow cushion that looked like a giant buttercup. 

"It's much too high." She stood beside it. "I wish 
there had been a lower branch. I shall have to call in 
'Mr. 'Iggs' and effect some sort of compromise." 



AUTUMN 135 

A kitchen chair was placed against the trunk of the 
tree and mounting on it she gathered her starched skirts 
about her and a moment later was happily engulfed in 
the coarse net, her hat suspended from a twig, her head 
deep in the soft cushion. 

"Isn't this nice?" She stared up at the cool leafy 
boughs above, through which she could catch a peep of 
the sky, hazy with heat and softly blue. 

She could see beyond the yew hedge a thin, straight 
coltunn of smoke rise from Mrs. Slack's cottage and a 
comer of the thatched roof; but no sound marred the 
silence save the droning hum of a bumble-bee and the 
faint noise of a goat cropping the coarse grass of the 
orchard. 

He was tethered by a frayed cord to a stake and 
moved in a circle like a living compass, busily eating out 
geometrical problems. He rejoiced in the name of Nebu- 
chadnezzar, was homed and ancient and rather inclined 
at the slightest provocation to butt ; not a very endearing 
companion, and heartily disliked by Day. 

She had met him one dark, mysterious night, wander- 
ing loose in the garden, having eaten through his worn 
rope, and the rencontre still rankled. 

Deirdre, recalling this and Day's conviction that the 
devil had appeared in person on this occasion, smiled as 
she watched the stumpy tail jerk with each effort as the 
goat tore at a patch of wiry g^ass which constituted his 
Sunday dinner. 

She felt too lazy to read the book lying unopened on 
her lap., Her hands were clasped under her head and 
beneath the frills of the stiff skirt, unknown to her, was 
a generous display of slim ankles in silken hose that 
ended in pretty suede shoes. 

This was her tribute to the Sabbath. On week-days 
she revelled in clothes that placed comfort before smart- 
ness; but even then she had that knack of putting 
them on daintily, which adds value to well-wom gar- 
ments. 

Her thoughts tumed to her neighbour in church. Her 
pew was behind the Pontefracts' and to-day during a 
tedious sermon by a stranger in aid of some foreign mis- 



136 AUTUMN 

sion, she had caught herself studying the profile of "Mrs. 
Chris/' 

She sat there alone, very stiff, in a "best frock" of 
Tussore silk — suggesting money but no taste — ^and the 
dull, neutral-tinted stuff seemed to accentuate the thick 
and sallow skin of the wearer and her general effect of 
colourlessness. Against the background of a pillar 
stained by Time, her aquiline nose and somewhat 
receding forehead and chin were silhouetted without 
mercy. 

Deirdre disliked the face, which reminded her some- 
what of a ferret. Mrs. Chris had furtive eyes of light 
ffrey with heavy lids fringed with scanty mouse-coloured 
mshes. Her mouth was bitter, with thin lips, and deep 
lines at the comers: a mean mouth which nevertheless 
hid a superb row of teeth. Yet, where in a better- 
favoured woman these would have brought distinctive 
beauty, in Mrs. Pontef ract they seemed to add a note of 
cruelty. 

You felt she could bite — and bite hard ! That Justice 
might move her but never Mercy. 

Like many people with ample means she fluctuated be- 
tween an effort to make an outward show with her 
money and her natural cheese-paring instincts. 

Yet when it came to the offertory she placed a gold 
coin on the plate handed to her by Mesurier, who, in 
correct Sunday garb, looked like a schoolboy doing pen- 
ance. 

Deirdre was always amused in watching his progress 
down the aisle. She- knew it was one of his concessions 
to tradition, but that he hated it. 

The Squire's son, when possible, had always performed 
this function. In Mesurier's case, with no child but Hya- 
cinth, he had continued the custom after the old man's 
death. 

His face, pretematurally solemn, when he emerged 
from his box-like pew, plate in hand, was the signal for 
a general ftunbling in pocket and glove and a fluttering 
among the village beauties, hats straightened, demure 
eyes brightening at his approach. 

For the Squire was very popular despite the legend 



AUTUMN 137 

that hung round him of misogynistic tendencies. These 
vere less marked with the country people. He would 
chaff the old women on their doorsteps and listen pa- 
tiently to complaints — an excellent and generous land- 
brd who saw his villagers well housed. A sure sign of 
his influence was the fact that the youth of the village 
were eager to serve at the Hall in any domestic capacity. 
Mrs. Slack, in her early days, had been the second kitch- 
enmaid and even that bleak embittered body had a good 
word for the Squire. 

Deirdre's mind had swept on to this distant point 
^from her drowsy dislike of Mrs. Chris. 

Mesurier was a new type to her, and the odd way in 
which he combined his love of freedom and hatred of 
pomp with an inborn reverence for tradition. But she 
realized that his dislike for society in his own class was 
based on the shams surrounding it and this made him 
more akin with the simpler, less educated folk who were 
not afraid to face facts. 

She sank lower in the hammock and a ruflfed lock of 
dark hair strayed against the yellow cushion. 

Her eyes closed sleepily. 

Already on the borderland of dreams she caught the 
warning sound of steps approaching steadily down the 
distant cinder path. 

"It's only Day," she said to herself, too lazy to turn 
her head. 

She had forgotten that the maid was not on duty that 
afternoon, the house in the charge of Mrs. Slack, and 
when the gate creaked on its hinge, hidden from view 
by the tree behind her, she lay half-lost in dreams until 
a shadow fell on the grass. 

Then with a little gasp she stirred — too late I It was 
Caradoc. 

"Mark !" She tried to struggle up. 

"Don't move." He stood before her, smiling rather 
neWously. "You look so comfortable there." 

Her cheeks flushed with sudden anger and the quick 
beating of her heart. 

To be caught like this, unprepared, with no possible 
way of retreat. Words failed her. She simply stared 



138 AUTUMN 

at the handsome and debonair face, so familiar and yet 
so strange, like the echo of some past life. 

"It's nice and cool down here," he went on carelessly, 
but his eyes were shrewdly surveying her and the pretty 
dainty picture she made in her muslin frock with her rut- 
fled hair against the green leafy background. "In town 
the heat is terrible ; you're lucky to be out of it !" 

He sat down on the kitchen chair uninvited and bared 
his head. 

Deirdre's thoughts were moving fast. It was impossi- 
ble to descend with dignity from her lofty perch. She 
was fairly caught — ^and Mark knew it ! 

A faint smile curved his lips as he explained that Mrs. 
Slack had volunteered to announce him. "But I told 
her I'd find the way myself. A nice little place." He 
looked around him. "It's an old house, isn't it?" 

By this time Deirdre had resolved on her course of 
action. She would leave all initiative to him. She knew 
how he shrank from direct speech and the mere fact of 
his visit left her mistress of the position. He had come 
down uninvited. It was for him to explain his errand. 

But how had he found out her address? 

She answered his question coolly. 

"Yes. The comer half of it used to be the Turnpike 
Lodge. The cottages were added on, later, by another 
tenant." 

"He's made a good job of it. I see he's used the old 
tiles and matched up the bricks carefully." He smoothed 
back his red-gold hair. Then, as though he dreaded a 
pause, he added in a leisurely tone: 

"Your Cousin Maddie bought the place?" 

peirdre started. Who could have told him? He 
seemed to know everything. 

"Yes." Her lips closed tightfy. 

Caradoc's eyes, restlessly, wandered back to the ham- 
mock and lingered a moment on her ankles. 

"I thought I'd just run down and see how you were 
getting on," he said. "Your mother seemed a bit anx- 
ious and I'm off next week for my holiday." 

"Mother?" The mystery was solved. "When did you 
see her?" She steadied her voice. 



AUTUMN 139 

For this was the bitterest blow of all: that her be- 
trayal should lie there. 

"She dined with me on her way through town to 
Gretchenbad and stayed the night. I must say she was 
very kind. I was rather worried just then trying to 
find a new servant. She put me on to a registry and 
gave me a few hints." 

"Then where's Perkins ?" Deirdre's mind moved back 
to the old life. She was talking, too, to gain time. Her 
own mother — of all people ! 

"Well," said Caradoc rather slowly, "it's an odd 
thing. She ran away. I had to speak to her one morn- 
ing and when I came back she w^s gone — ^boxes and all. 
The porter helped her. I gave him a good piece of my 
mind." 

"I expect you did." Her voice was dry. '*And Cook ?" 
Caradoc fidgeted. For the first time Deirdre began to 
feel a faint amusement. She could picture the scene 
perfectly. 

"At any rate," she said to herself, "he's not finding 
things too easy." 

"Oh, §he's settling down again, though her cooking 
goes from bad to worse. But your mother says it's 
difficult to find any cooks at all ! So I thought it wiser 
to raise her wages. She said it was dull in a flat, and 
I've let her have a few friends so long as it's not when 
I'm there." He was trying to carry it off brightly. "So 
now she says she'll stay 'to oblige'!" 

Deirdre smiled. 

"I see. And the new maid's a success?" 

"Well, not altogether. Noisy and breaks things. 
But I'm off next week, and meanwhile I'm out of the 
flat a good deal. It doesn't seem to make much differ- 
ence." His longing for sympathy upset his original plan 
and he blurted out : "The bills are awful ! And when I 
complain cook gets on her high stilts and swears I order 
expensive things. All bosh I There's waste somewhere. 
And that rogue of a porter steals the coal. I shall have 
to have it out with him !" 

"I expect you will," said Deirdre sweetly. "You 
ought to engage a housekeeper." 



140 AUTUMN 

Caradoc glanced obliquely at her. She looked so cool 
and composed that his nerves failed him at this crisis. 
He remembered his mother-in-law's warning: 

"My child will be led — ^but never driven." 

What increased his nervousness was the new charm 
he divined in Deirdre. She looked so yoimg, so patently 
happy in her country life — ^in a subtle way ''settled" 
there — ^that he saw he must move warily. 

He had pictured quite a different welcome. A scene 
possibly and tears, to end in a reconciliation. He did not 
realise that the years of lonely resourcefulness in her- 
self, due to his neglect of her, had prepared his wife 
unconsciously for the present separation. He had never 
strengthened the links of passion and duty by companion- 
ship. Save for the strong bond of habit they were fur- 
ther apart than in their courtship. And now the habit 
was broken through — the bird had escaped from her 
cage. 

He drew his chair a little nearer. Deirdre looked half- 
asleep. He felt an odd confused desire to shake his wife 
and to kiss her. 

"I'm off to Le Touquet next Thursday, with Roscoe 
and two other men, for a month's golf and some bath- 
ing." He spoke rather jerkily. "I dined last night with 
the Hardwicks. They're going, too, and Freddy Wyatt. 
Mrs. Hardwick asked after you. She suggested, in fact, 
that you should join us later on. D'you care to come?" 

"But I don't play golf." Her voice was careless. 

"Oh, well, you n-needn't, you know." He stammered 
a trifle. "There' re other things. Hardwick's no golfer, 
either. And you like the sea." 

For the first time she saw a wistful look on his face. 

"Hardwick" — ^shc yawned — "bores me to tears ! And, 
as to his wife, we've nothing in common. Besides which 
you forget the expense." 

"That's nothing," said Caradoc quickly. "I hope you'll 
come. We should — ^all — like it." 

"But I'm quite happy here," she objected. "I love 
Four Comers. I've no desire to leave it — even for a 
week — or the joys of London society." 

To herselt she was saying: "Does he think I shall 



AUTUMN 141 

follow him when he raises a finger? Advised to 'make 
it up' by Mamma, with her pious dread of a scandal! 
It's a fortnight since she went abroad. Mark has not 
hurried to find me out. He's uncomfortable, that's all. 
He misses the careful housekeeper." 

She changed the subject deliberately. 

"I forgot to ask you, have you lunched?" 

"Yes, thanks. I got some at Kilby. I had to change 
and wait for a train." 

The tired look had returned to his face. He seemed 
older, Deirdre thought; but she stifled the faint suspi- 
cion of pity. 

"London life," she decided hardly. There were dark 
shadows under his eyes that testified to late hours. 

His glance met hers. 

"I must say the country seems to agree with you." He 
was starting on a fresh tack. "I've never seen you 
looking better." 

"I feel fit. I live out of doors — a quiet life, but very 
peaceful. As you know, I never cared for town. Unless 
one has the means to dress and go out in comfort, it's 
not much pleasure for a woman. Here I can do as I 
like — old clothes are the fashion ! — and money is not the 
only 'hall-mark.' There's less show and more comfort. 
Besides which" — ^she laughed lightly — ^"I enjoy being 
lord of my domain. I'm growing a thoroughly selfish 
person and in danger of becoming a tyrant !" 

"And you're never dull?" he insinuated. 

"No. I've made som^ pleasant friends and I'm quite 
accustomed to being alone." (Under her lashes she saw 

him wince.) "At present I'm learning gardening " 

She broke off with a little frown. For a clear call rang 
over the hedge. 

"Mrs. Caradoc, are you there?" It was Hyacinth's 
voice. 

The gate clicked and two dogs dashed forward, fol- 
lowed swiftly by the girl, Mesurier and Olga in her 
wake. 

"Salt! Pepper! Come to heel! Ah, would you?" 
She cracked her whip. The West Highlander slunk 
back guiltily, and his iron-grey pal came lea.^m^^!c^xt3N«g|^ 



142 AUTUMN 

the long g^ass with his black nose and beady eyes wick- 
edly alive for mischief. 

Deirdre, rather vexed at this unforeseen contretemps, 
called out: 

"I'm in the hammock — under the tree. I can't get 
down !" 

"Coming!" Hyacinth laughed gaily. 

Caradoc rose to his feet, as the Mesuriers drew near, 
watching the pair curiously. 

The Squire had returned to his shabbiest suit, his Sun- 
day duties at an end. Yet he carried it off with the easy 
grace of utter self-forgetfulness. 

"Looks well-bred," thought Caradoc. "And the 
girl . . . what a little beauty!" 

For Hyacinth, in a much-washed linen frock of her 
favourite blue, her hat swinging from her hand, with the 
wonderful wealth of her pale gold hair, looked like the 
princess in disguise of one of Grimm's fairy-tales. 

Deirdre introduced her husband. 

Hyacinth, refusing the chair he offered, settled herself 
on the grass. 

"We're taking the dogs for a walk. They always ex- 
pect it on the Sabbath. We wondered if you'd care to 
come, but, of course, nozx/' — she glanced up at the tall 
stranger with a smile — ^"it's quite hopeless,' she added, 
laughing. 

Mesurier silently stooped and picked up the fallen 
book which lay wide open under the hammock. 

"Fm afraid so," Caradoc nodded. "I've taken her 
prisoner, you see. She can't get down out of her net 
without help. It's far too risl^! And she's too proud 
to ask for it." 

As his double meaning flashed across her, Deirdre 
fidgeted. 

The Squire looked up, mischievous. 

"Can't you?" He held out his hands invitingly with 
a merry gesture. 

"Not with a due regard to convention," she laughed 
back. "Though I'll tell you a secret. When I really 
want to escape I shall find a way — for myself !" \ 

''The kitchen chair!" Hyacinth prompted. She had 



AUTUMN 143 

missed the significance of the speech. '77/ save you." 
She sprang up and ordered the men imperiously: "Go 
and talk to Nebuchadnezzar — ^he's a nice goat — at a dis- 
tance !" She smiled up at Caradoc. **I shouldn't be too 
friendly. He has what old Mrs. Grady calls *a way wid 
him' when he's out of temper." 

"You mean that I might find myself on the horns of a 
dilemma ?" 

"He doesn't like to be called names! Now, oflF you 
go — both of you." 

Mesurier laughed. 

"You'd better submit. She always gets her own way." 
And they strolled off, side bv side, an odd contrast, the 
well-dressed man, so obviously a Londoner, with his pale 
face and red-gold hair, and the Squire, in his worn tweed 
suit with his gipsy-like colouring. Caradoc began to talk 
of a match at Lord's the day before. 

"You're keen on cricket?" Mesurier asked. 

"I used to be, but I've given it up. Too stiff. I've 
taken to golf — it's the only game when one's tied to 
town." 

Mesurier was wondering what his age could be. It 
was somewhat difficult to guess. 

"I'm afraid you'll find no links near here — ^though 
there are some on the other side of Kilby." 

"Oh, I'm not staying," said Caradoc quickly. "I'm off 
to Le Touquet next week. So I ran down first, for a 
few hours, to see how my wife was getting on." 

Mesurier nodded his head. His dark face was inscru- 
table, but all his senses were on the alert. He had no- 
ticed the possessive note in Caradoc's voice when he 
spoke of Deirdre. 

"Beginning to miss her," he thought to himself. "He 
hasn't troubled her much, so far." 

For, although Deirdre in their talks had never men- 
tioned her husband's name, this new friend of theirs had 
guessed there was secret trouble between the pair. 

He had been somewhat taken aback by this sudden 
unexpected meeting. Caradoc was a handsome man with 
a pleasant manner, but the Squire, with the intuition so 
largely acquired in his wanderings in many texvds^^ v^Vnrx^ 



144 AUTUMN 

he had met such diverse types and studied them in his 
thoughtful fashion, was not wholly impressed by hint 
He divined a cold temperament and an irritable, captious 
temper. 

"Could be a brute if he liked," he thought, as they 
paused in front of Nebuchadnezzar. 

The goat stared back at them aggressively and Cara- 
doc laughed. 

"I don't call it a pretty pet. It's rather like the or- 
thodox caricature of a Yankee. Well, Brother Jona- 
than?" 

He advanced towards it, his hand extended. 

"Look out !" said the Squire. The goat charged, head 
down. Caradoc doubled back. 

There came a laugh from the apple trees. Hyacinth 
and Deirdre, arm in arm, appeared m the sunshine. 

The two men turned back to meet them. 

"You live near here?" said Caradoc. 
•"Yes," the Squire answered briefly, "just over those 
woods there." He made a rather vague gesture. 

"It's pretty country," the other resiuned. He was 
wondering who this new and shabby friend of his wife 
might be and the pretty girl who called him "Rollo." He 
had not gathered the relationship. The introduction had 
been careless and he did not even know their names. 

As they joined the other pair he was struck once more 
by the change in Deirdre. The matrimonial habit had 
dulled his perceptions in the past He now realized 
afresh how pretty she was and it stirred in the man a 
renewed feeling of resentment How dared she run 
away from him? 

Mesurier was chaffing her : 

"Behold the descent from Olympus! And how does 
Minerva like Earth ?" 

"She likes it extremely — for a change. The air is less 
rarefied* I expect the High Gods felt the same." 

**When they came down to woo mortals?" Mesurier 
smiled puckishly. "I believe you ! They were jolly glad 
to exchange the monotony of nectar for an honest pint 
of home-brewed ale." 

Caradoc felt rather bored. This was the sort of talk 



AUTUMN 145 

he hated. He turned aside to admire Olga as a bait to 
draw Hyacinth. 

Mesurier, left with Deirdre, went on in a lower voice : 
"We're off now. If Fd known, we shouldn't have broken 
in on you." 

"Don't go," she said swiftly ; "not just yet. Stay for 
tea." There was unconscious appeal on her face, but 
Mesurier shook his head. 

"The dogs want their exercise. We were going to 
walk into the vale and hunt up Chris. But he's away, 
and I can't face the lady alone. She turns me sour for a 
week." He was strolling forward as he talked. "They're 
off to Dieppe very soon. They go there every year. 
Chris is looking about for rooms — or so he says." His 
eyes twinkled. "Having a spell of liberty before the 
plunge back again into public domesticity! Poor old 
Chris — ^he deserves it." 

Deirdre glanced up at him and saw the Squire's face 
turn grave. 

"I can't quite understand that marriage." She hesi- 
tated. "I suppose it was money?" 

"Not altogether. A base trick, and a piece of quix- 
otic folly. Don't go and misjudge Chris. He's been a 
fool but not a knave — a dear fool." He opened the 
gate and, followed by the other pair, they walked down 
the cinder path, turned to the right by the well and 
reached the entrance to the lane. 

"Well, good-bye." He held out his hand. For a 
minute he looked down into her eyes. 

"Bluer than ever!" he said lightly. "And I always 
believed that Minerva's were grey. It's shaken my faith 
in your wisdom." 

"Perhaps it's the effect of Earth?" 

"Never !" He seemed about to add something further, 
then checked himself. "Come along, Hyacinth." He 
whistled the dogs to his heels, and ran a hand through 
his daughter's arm, as she turned once more to call back : 

"You'll come and bathe, at eight, to-morrow?" 

"Rather I" Deirdre cried. 

She watched them stride down the road and vanish 
from sight round the comer. 



146 AUTUMN 

"That's an uncommonly pretty girl." Caradoc broke 
the heavy silence, "What's the name?" 

"Mesurier." Deirdre still leant on the gate. 

"And the man's a brother — or a husband?" 

"Neither. He's Hyacinth's father." 
^ "But she calls him RoUo !" Caradoc stared. "Be- 
sides, he looks far too young." 

"He's thirty-seven," said Deirdre. Somehow she did 
not wish to discuss these dear friends with her husband. 
But to avoid further questioning she went on rather 
quickly: "He's the Squire. They live at the Hall — a 
very beautiful old place." 

"Really? I've heard of it. 'Weavers Hall' Yes, of 
course ! Where do you bathe — in a river?" 

"No, there's a lake." She turned away down the path 
toward the house. "I'll tell Mrs. Slack to get some tea." 

"Not for me," ^id Caradoc quickly. He pulled out 
his watch. "I haven't time." 

Instinctively she guessed "his thoughts. He would not 
eat or drink in this house where his wife lived at her 
own expense. 

She hked him for this touch of pride and yielding to 
a gentler impulse: 

'Would you like to see over the place?" she asked. 

'Very much." He followed her in. 

'You've got some nice bits of blue." He stood be- 
fore the shelf of china. 

"Those were a non-birthday present from Hyacinth 
Mesurier." Suddenly she remembered her last real 
birthday spent in London. . . 

"They're good," said Caradoc. "That blurred bowl 
looks like Crescent Worcester." 

"It is." She led the way upstairs. "This is the room 
I use the most. I call it my Lookout Tower." 

Caradoc glanced round him. Inwardly he was sur- 
prised. He recognized the artistic touch which in town 
nis wife had been forced to subject to merely useful 
considerations, hampered by economy. 

He admired the view from the narrow windows and 
crossed to the deep-set grate with its high "dogs" and 
steel fender. 






AUTUMN 147 

"It's all in keeping " He stopped abruptly. On 

the chimney-piece lay a pipe. 

"You haven't taken to this, I hope?" He spoke with 
a jocular intention which did not deceive Deirdre. 

"Only cigarettes," she smiled. "That belongs, I think, 
to the Squire. He left it here the other evening." 

"He wouldn't miss it, I should say. Looks pretty 
foul! He's an odd chap. Does he always dress like a 
tramp?" Faint temper was in his voice. 

Deirdre ignored the remark. 

At the bend in the stairs they met Day, clad in her 
best hat and coat. She drew back with a little gasp and 
vanished into her own room. Caradoc's face hardened. 
Again he had recourse to his watch. 

"I shall miss the only decent train if I stay to see the 
rest of the house." 

He turned and went back to the hall. 

But there he lingered, picking up a slim leather-bound 
volume that lay on the gate-legged table. He turned the 
first page idly. His eyes fell on a faded plate with a 
coat-of-arms. He guessed the owner. 

Another trace of Mesurier! For the first time in 
many years jealousy seized the man. He had been so 
sure of his wife; a background figure, but always, 
there. 

Yet his pride forbade any comment. He was con- 
scious at heart that his mission had failed, but he still 
thought the whole affair a "woman's whim." He be- 
lieved that the rebel would tire of it in due course. 

Meanwhile he had placed their relations on a less 
obscure and formal footing. He saw shrewdly that it 
was wiser to overlook the escapade than to run the risk 
of a refusal if he "ordered" her to return. In his heart 
he anathematized "GDUsin Maddie" for providing the 
means to accomplish the purpose. 

For beneath his impotence and mistrust lay a longing 
he struggled in vain to ignore; more potent since he had 
seen the pretty and familiar face. 

He wanted her back, at any price, though he would 
not admit it to himself. Absence had added a sense of 
value — ^no little assisted by tV\e d\scomio\\. V^ ^^^^ ^:*-- 



148 AUTUMN 

periencing in the flat I Now, as he gathered up his stick 
and gloves, he forced a smile. 

"Well, my dear, Fm glad to see your holiday seems to 
be suiting you. It's a nice little place — for the summer. 
If you change your mind about Le Touquet write to the 
Hermitage Hotel. I'll come and meet you at Boulogne 
if you let me know by which boat." 

To his surprise Deirdre laughed. "But that would 
break into your golf !" Her voice was friendly yet mis- 
chievous. "Besides, I don't change my mind." 

She held the door open for him, her hands engaged 
with the latch. 

"Good-bye. If you write to Mamma, tell her how 
happy and well you found me. It will save her further 
anxiety." 

A group of villagers strolling by in their Sunday 
clothes stared at the pair. 

Caradoc felt his position absurd. He would not risk a 
rebuff before this interested audience. 

He stepped down into the dust. 

"Good-bye." Abruptly he raised his hat and was off 
without another word. 

Deirdre, still smiling, closed the door. Then her face 
changed. 

She stood for a moment one hand pressed hard on the 
back of a chair, feeling relief surge over her followed by 
a wave of anger. 

"He offers me a week at Le Touquet, to make up for 
years of neglect! As if I couldn't see through it! He 
misses the comfort of his home. And as for Mamma — " 
angry tears rose to her eyes and she stamped her foot— 
"It's the last word in treachery. Well, I've done with 
both of them ! I can picture her" — ^her thoughts whirled 
on — "simply charmed to find herself the centre of a 
family quarrel. She would call herself 'the peacemaker' ! 
Her love of meddling amounts to a crime ! And to stay 
there, in my absence, just to save herself the cost of put- 
ting up at an hotel. I know her. She's mean to the 
core ! That's the truth of her intervention. She doesn't 
know what my income is, and, besides a scandal, which 
she abhors, she's afraid I shall break loose from Mark 



AUTUMN 



149 



and find myself stranded in the end and that she will 
have to come forward." 

She turned quickly. A quiet step came down the 
stairs. It was Day, her outdoor clothes discarded, trim 
in her little muslin apron. 

"I'll be getting your tea in a minute, mum." 

She passed swiftly across the hall and vanished into 
the kitchen beyond. 

Deirdre's tense face softened. Hurriedly she wiped 
her eyes. 

"Day," she called, "you ought to be out." 

There came a sound of cups rattling, then the faithful, 
motherly voice: 

"I've been out, thank you, mum. And it's that hot 
I'm better in. So I told Mrs. Slack she could go." She 
reappeared in the doorway, and glanced shrewdly at her 
mistress. 

"A cup o' tea will do you good" — and was oflf mutter- 
ing — ^"Them menl" 



^ 



CHAPTER XIV 

All through the long hot afternoon they had been busy 
bridge-building and now the last stone was laid and they 
stood erect to admire their work. 

"You must cross first," said the Squire. "Remember, 
you hold your life in your hand!" 

Deirdre laughed, tired but happy. Her serge skirt 
was smeared with earth, and over her brown glowing 
face the loosened masses of her hair fell forward, shad- 
ing her eyes. Impatiently she tossed back a curling lock 
that obscured her sight. 

"It's fine— isn't it ?" she said. 

Hyacinth, a few paces away, was busy filling the little 
pockets in a group of boulders with gritty soil, which, 
later on, would hold rock plants. 

She called back over her shoulder: 

"Wait a minute! We'll christen it first. From the 
grunts and groans I've heard from you two it ought 
to be named the 'Bridge of Sighs.' You're what old 
Mrs. Lomax calls 'oneasy breathers' when you work." 

She sat back on her heels and glanced up the winding 
path, already laid with irregular paving, that led from 
the bridge up the further slope to where a bent figure 
laboured, preparing the ground for a straggling flight 
of stone steps in tmeven slabs. 

"Just look at Second-Best. He's pointing like a good 
retriever." 

For the gardener's head was thrown back. He seemed 
to be sniffing the sultry air, his face turned towards the 
wind. 

Deirdre watched him, amused. 

This taciturn but skilful worker had always interested 
her. Sparing of words, with a grudging air, he would 
plod on with the task set him until his opinion clashed 
with the Squire's. Then, immovable as a rock, he would 
argue out the knotty point with a slow, hardly-veiled 

150 



AUTUMN 151 

disdain for what he called "amatoor gardening." The 
only person who could move him was Hyacinth. He 
worshipped her. His eyes, brown and intelligent, would 
follow her movements with dog-like fidelity. Her gar- 
dening tools he cleaned himself and at times, when the 
ground was damp, he would appear with a kneeling mat 
and stand, glowering down at her silently, until she 
used it. 

Now, as they watched him, he rose to his feet and 
thrust his arms into the coat which he gathered from 
oflf the end of a barrow. 

Still bent, he moved towards them with a slow and 
heavy step — a thick-set and shaggy man, who reminded 
Deirdre of a bear. 

He touched his cap to Mesurier. 

"Rain comin'," and, adding "sir" as an afterthought, 
he lurched past with an indistinct word tacked on which 
Deirdre could not catch. 

Mesurier nodded. "Tell Jackson I shall want the car 
round at half-past six.** 

"Yes, sir." Second-Best quickened his pace. He had 
'the odd shambling gait of a quadruped balanced on its 
hind legs. 

"Does he always use wireless?" 

"Generally." The Squire smiled. "He's stingy in 
speech but not in work. He thinks there's a storm com- 
ing up and he's nervous about his frames. Perry's 
away for a holiday and he places no faith in his father." 

E)eirdre glanced at the sky above her. 

"It can't rain." For the blue heavens, hazy with heat, 
seemed miles away, laced with fleecy drifting clouds of 
snowy white and the sun poured down with the strong 
purpose of September. 

"I wouldn't mind betting that it will. Second-Best has 
a most uncanny weather-sense. I asked him once how 
it worked and he answered tersely, 'I smells rain.' I 
think it's true." 

Hyacinth had joined the pair. "Of course it is. He 
knows. Besides, you've only to watch that aspen and 
the way the leaves are turning up. I'll give it another 
ten minutes." 



152 AUTUMN 

The bridge was christened by Deirdre with a handful 
of water scooped from the brook. Then in turn they 
tested it and Mesurier, in wild spirits, danced a fan- 
dango in the middle. 

"Sound as a rock!" He began to sing, 

**Sur le Pont d' Avignon 
On y danse a la ronde. ..." 

and stopped abruptly. A heavy drop of rain had 
splashed upon his forehead. 

"Here it comes! Let's make for the wood." He 
tucked an arm through Deirdre's and linked up Hyacinth 
with the other. 

"Run !" 

They were off down the slope. The Squire's long legs 
covered the groimd, setting a truly terrific pace. He 
dragged his companions forward mercilessly, though 
Deirdre gasped out in protest : 

"Stop — oh, stop! I can't go on!" 

Over their heads a dark cloud had stolen up swiftly 
and now the rain descended in earnest, lashing down, 
with glints of sunshine still athwart it, straight and true 
like an emptied sheaf of arrows with fine shining points. 

"There t" Mesurier pulled up. They had reached 
the belt of sheltering trees. 

Deirdre was fighting for breath, but Hyacinth only 
laughed at her. Olga, like a shadow, slipped into the 
undergrowth, dreading thunder, her tail clipped between 
her legs, head drooping despondently. 

"Now," said Mesurier, "I think we've all earned a lit- 
tle rest." He moved on a few steps. "Here's an arm- 
chair for the lady." 

A beech tree with its silvery trunk capped a rise in 
the ground; its roots had emerged from the soil and 
between them was a narrow space, deep and soft, where 
last year's leaves had crumbled into finest dust. 

Deirdre, thankfully, settled herself in this cosy nook, 
her arms propped on the bare roots, her back against the 
smooth bark. Then she turned on Mesurier, half-laugh- 
ing, half-resentful. 



AUTUMN 153 

"You wretch ! You nearly killed me." 

"I say, I'm awfully sorry." He flung himself down at 
her feet, his chin propped on his hands, his eyes still 
mischievous. "I couldn't help it. It's the rain. It al- 
ways goes to my head like this after a long spell of 
drought." 

They could hear the drops pattering down on the 
leaves above, but the fine old tree sheltered them like 
the roof of a house. 

"It wanted to catch us," said Hyacinth, squatting on 
the ground beside him, her arms clasped roimd her 
knees. "It's simply furious that we escaped ! Listen to 
it. Can't you hear what it says? 'I'll have you next 
time I Have you pat! You pit-i-ful mor-tal — ^pat — pat 
—pat!'" 

"Anyhow it's cooled the air." Deirdre watched Me- 
surier split a dried beechnut across with his lean brown 
fingers. 

"The kernel? Not at home! Those squirrels never 
give one a chance. They always nobble all the full ones. 
I love beech trees," he rambled on, "they're aristocrats, 
though a shade effete, with their heads so high up in 
the air and their hold on the soil sublimely careless. 
They don't burrow down like the oaks — the sturdy yeo- 
men of the wood. They're just a trifle unbalanced, but 
they're beautiful — so cleanly cut." 

He rolled over on his back and gazed up at the high 
branches. 

"Cedars are hard to beat. But there's something a 
little Jewish about them — ^hook-nosed and patriarchal — 
the influence of Lebanon. The tree I like least of all is 
the sycamore. It's truly plebeian, with sticky hands." 
He made a face. 

'And the willow?" Deirdre asked. 

^A gentleman — splays cricket. But I rather mistrust 
his poor relation, the widow who weeps. She's out for 
money. Apd she doesn't care how draggled she gets; 
her skirts are always thick with mud. I fancy she drinks 
—on the sly." 

"But don't you like the silver birch?" 

"Yes; not so much as the beech. I think hc*s a 






J 



154 AUTUMN 

shade pedantic — ^the schoolmaster among the trees. He 
birches and gets silvered in return for his attentions. 
It's not fair that he should have the pleasure and 
the profit, too! But the beech" — he yawned bliss- 
fully — "above all the copper beech! — Like a lovely 
Venetian woman, with slim smooth neck and Titian 
hair." 

Deirdre drowsily agreed, but Hyacinth was inclined to 
argue. 

"The oak's my friend. After all he was the choice 
of the dryads." 

"Because they were soulless," said Mesurier. "They 
could only realise outward strength." He picked up a 
dry twig and looked at it thoughtfully. "I wish. . . ." 

Hyacinth shook her head. 

"Too lazy. It's no good, Rollo." Then she laughed. 
"Ask Deirdre." 

Mesurier, twisting sideways, gave her a hesitating 
glance. 

"What does he want?" Deirdre smiled. 

The dark head, with its thick, straight hair, was near 
her knee, and suddenly she felt an odd longing to run 
her fingers lightly across it. 

"I'm sure it would give oflf sparks if I did !" she con- 
jectured drowsily. "It looks so full of vitality." 

She started as Mesurier said: 

"I wish you would." Had he read her thoughts? 

But Hyacinth enlightened her, mischief in her green- 
blue eyes. 

"I'll show you, if you like. We call it 'Merlin's Spell' ; 
and the real beauty of it is it generally sends him fast 
asleep ! He loves it — simply to distraction !" 

She took the twig from Rollo's hand and, leaning 
across, began to stroke his head with it, from the square 
brow across the well-shaped crown. Mesurier gave a 
little shiver. 

"Delicious!" He closed his eyes. 

"Isn't it funny?" said Hyacinth. "I used to do it as 
a child, and once, after a bad illness when he couldn't 
sleep, every night I found I could send him off with it. 
Now you try." She passed the twig to Deirdre. "But, 



AUTUMN 155 

first of all, make a back for him with your knees — so — 
are you both comfy?" 

A sleepy voice came up from the Squire. "You don't 
mind?" Deirdre laughed. 

Mesurier, emboldened by this, leaned back luxuriously. 

"If I fall asleep," he explained, "it will be from sheer 
happiness. You'll take it as a compliment, won't you?" 
He chuckled softly. She could feel the broad shoulders 
quiver. f 

Hyacinth corrected him. 

"You might at least be decently grateful." 

"I am— literally— at her feet." 

The absurdity of the situation suddenly dawned on 
Deirdre. "If only Mamma could see me now!" she 
thought. "I'm sure she'd die of shock. This is just the 
kind of thing she'd call 'most improper,' with the usual 
misuse of the word." 

"That's right," said Hyacinth; "you've got the idea. 
Not too lightly! I believe there is a spell, somehow. 
Perhaps the twig sends messages down to the brain? 
Or it may be a simple case of hypnotism." 

She rose to her feet and moved away, calling Olga, 
who crept forth from under a bush, panting a little, her 
red tongue hanging out. 

"Thirsty?" She stroked the dog's head. "Shall we 
go to the lake and have a drink?" The Borzoi stiffened 
to attention, her beautiful eyes on her mistress' face. 

"I'm coming back," calfcd Hyacinth. "Don't tire 
Deirdre out," and was off with her long easy stride, 
her ghost-like companion at her heels. 

The rain still beat upon the leaves and from the earth 
a fragrance rose, the subtle incense of the woods ; birds 
twittered and everywhere was a pleasant sense of slack- 
ening — a relief from the strain of the stonrfs approach. 

Deirdre felt it, too. Mesurier, half-asleep, slipped 
lower, his head turned, a cheek pressed against her 
knee. 

She could see now the straight, clean line that ran 
from his chin to his ear and the face in profile, palely 
brown against the dark serge of her skirt. 

The narrow-lidded eyes were closed, fringed by iKvck. 



156 AUTUMN 

and glossy lashes, blue-black like his hair, and the well- 
marked prominent brows. 

Not a single thread of greyl She wondered a little, 
knowing his age. 

"It's the life he leads," she decided, "always out in 
the open air. But he'll never be old" — ^the thought fol- 
lowed — "not really old, like other people." 

Then she saw he was asleep. She leaned back, her 
hands in her lap, feeling the peace of the warm silence 
sink down upon her spirit. 

Somewhere far above her head a wood-pigeon was 
cooing faintly: "Coo-rroo . . . coo-rroo ..." with a 
soft monotonous note. 

She looked down again at the man. Mesurier was 
breathing evenly, his limbs stretched out, muscles re- 
laxed, plainly lost in the land of dreams. 

The mystery of sleep stirred afresh her imagination. 
Where had he gone — ^the essence of him — leaving behind 
the helpless body? 

She felt a sudden tenderness flood her heart He was 
dear to her, very dear, with his strength and beauty 
and his curious simplicity. 

Beauty? Why had she used that word? It was too 
feminine for Mesurier. Yet "handsome" didn't suit 
him, either, with its trim note of modernity. 

For a moment vaguely she pictured him in his true 
setting, away in the past, a leopard-skin slung from one 
broad shoulder, a wreath of vine leaves in his hair. . . . 

How black it was! 

Her fingers stole across it almost unconsciously. It 
seemed to tingle under her touch, every thread steeped 
with life. 

Mesurier stirred. Still half-asleep, he reached up 
with a blind movement and captured her hand, drawing 
it down before she had mastered her surprise. The next 
moment she felt his lips pressing deeply into her palm. 
He kissed her fingers with rising passion, then the smooth 
and delicate wrist. 

"Darling I I was dreaming of you." His voice in a 

whisper reached her ears. "I dreamt " He broke 

off abruptly. 



AUTUMN 157 

For Deirdre, in a sudden panic, as realisation poured 
in on her, had torn her fingers out of bis with a low 
cry, 

"No I no I . . ." 

The next moment, fully awake, Mesurier had strug- 
gled up. He stood looking down at her ; at her flushed 
face and shamed eyes, his brows set in a frowning 
line. 

Then with a shrug of his shoulders he wheeled round 
and strode off. But he did not leave her altogether. He 
halted, his back still turned, head thrust forward, hands 
clasped behind. 

As she recovered her presence of mind she could sec 
the knuckles standing out, white, above the locked fin- 
gers and guessed the conflict within the man. And at 
the sight her resentment faded. Indeed, it was mostly 
against herself. She remembered the impulse that had 
moved her to smooth that dark head of his; and she 
knew deep down in her soul that for one hesitating mo- 
ment she had yielded to the call of love. 

After a minute or two he turned and came slowly 
back to her. 

"Will you forgive me?" he asked simply. "I'm 
awfully sorry." His voice was sombre. 

She nodded, finding nothing to say, painfully nervous 
under his gaze. 

Aware of this, with an effort he went on, more lightly : 

"Perhaps it was partly 'Merlin's Spell'? I'm only 
mortal man, you know. There are limits to one's re- 
sistance — ^against " he wavered — "unknown magic." 

And then on Deirdre's troubled heart suddenly en- 
lightenment poured. Only sincerity could heal this 
breach between them worthily. 

"Don't!" he saw the colour rise in a great wave un- 
der her skin — ^"it was just as much — ^my fault — as yours." 
The effort brought the tears to her eyes. 

An odd sound broke from his lips; half admira- 
tion, half remorse. He bent down and gripped her 
shoulders. 

"You brave thing!" His voice rang. 

A wonderful light was in his iact, \v\^ c^t.'s* xtasJcsfe^ 



IS8 AUTUMN 

her very soul. She was swung up to dizzy heights 
for one perilous, breathless moment, shorn of her per- 
sonality, her spirit merged in another's. 

Then his hands slipped away; he stepped back. 

"I never thought that I should respect a woman so 
much !" He smiled at her but his face was pale. "I'm 
forgiven, then ?" After a pause he went on, still watch- 
ing her. "And there's no cloud on our friendship? It's 
all over — ^a secret between us and the beech tree. We 
can trust him — ^he's a gentleman — ^he understands." His 
mouth curved whimsically. "I expect he's jolly ashamed 
of me — an old tenant and can't leave. In fact, I diink 
he has freehold rights. Ah I" . . . She was holding out 
her hand. 

"Then if we shake, like true Britons, he'll feel re- 
lieved," she suggested. She gave Mesurier a shy smile. 
There was no need for further speech. 

"What's become of Hyacinth?' he asked when this 
rite was performed. Deirdre rose to her feet, dusting 
oflf the stray leaves. 

"She took Olga to the lake to have some water, whilst 
you were snoring." 

"Never I I mean, do I snore?" Boyishly he asked the 
question, his face so anxious that she laughed. 

"Ask the beech tree." They moved on through the 
wood after the truant. 

"It's stopped raining!" He glanced up as they came 
to a little open space. "But work's over for to-day 
— we'll go home and have some tea. I've hunted out 
a book for you, on old Provence. You were asking me 
about Mistral and the Felibres— d'you remember? This 
goes back to earlier days, with legends of the Trouba- 
dours. It's a mighty volume, so I thought it was wiser 
to order the car. 

I'm getting spoilt," said Deirdre. 
But think how you've worked," he protested. "It's 
good to think the bridge is finished. There she is — 
my long-lost daughter!" 

By the edge of the lake Hyacinth, her shoes and stock- 
ings on the erass, was dabbling her feet in the cool 
water tranquilly, lost in day-dte^xns. 



"] 
it' 



AUTUMN 159 

'Tyyou call that giving the dog a drink?" RoUo's 
vcMce made her start. 

"Yes — no." She looked up. "Had a nice sleep?" 
Her eyes twinkled. 

For a moment an embarrassii^ thought flashed 
through Deirdre's mind. Had the girl left them to- 
gether on purpose? She thrust it aside determinedly. 

Mesurier pulled his daughter's ear. 

"Come along — wc want some tea. We've been wait- 
ing for you to return." 

He went on with Deirdre, leaving Hyacinth to follow. 

At the edge of the wood was open park, still dotted 
by iine old trees, with stretches of bracken, high and 
green, but spangled with the gold of Autumn. 

As they trod the springy turf a herd of deer, startled, 
rose from the shelter of a group of oaks and skimmed 
across the intruders' path. 

The sun shone down on their dappled skins, shy heads 
and slender limbs and Deirdre drew a deep breath of 
delight. 

"Aren't they beautiful?" she cried. 

She watched them plunge into the sea of bracken 
and vanish as the fronds curled back over them. 

"Do you believe in reincarnation ?' 

"Sometimes." His voice was lazy. "What made you 
think of that just now ?" 

"I was thinking that if I had the choice of a new 
bodily shape hereafter, I shouldn't mind being a deer." 

Mesurier's happy laugh rang out. 

"Why not have a change?* he asked. 



CHAPTER XV 

That night Deirdre dreamed of the Squire. 

She was swimming in a rough sea, blue as a sap- 
phire, but flecked with white and by her side a dark 
head rose and fell as they capped the waves. 

No land lay in sight, only the violet rim where the 
sea met the radiant Southern sky, yet Deirdre was not 
afraid. She knew she was safe. She had only to call 
to the strong swimmer whose laughing eyes turned to 
her in the moments of calm between the long rolling 
breakers, ^he knew he would not let her drown; her 
faith in him was absolute. 

And then, with one of those swift transitions pecu- 
liar to dreams, the scene had changed. She lay on a 
white and sunny deck; above her a great sail flapped 
with the breeze that sang through the taut ropes. 

She could feel it blowing in her hair and taste the 
salt upon her lips; she could stretch out a hand and 
touch the helmsman whose brown face, keen as a hawk, 
was silhouetted against blue skies, and a little laugh 
broke from her, bom of the sheer delight of life. . . . 

And with the laugh she awoke — to find that through 
the open window the air was streaming into the room, 
cold with the first sweet nip of Autumn. 

It swung the curtains to and fro with the snapping 
noise of wet linen; for another storm had passed over 
Weavers and the rain had invaded the narrow case- 
ment 

For a moment she lay drowsily trying to recover 
her dream, then with a faint sigh of regret she came to 
full consciousness. 

Between the parted folds of the hangings she could 
see a ray of pale moonlight and she slipped out of bed 
and made her way to the window to tie back the blind. 
But first she gazed out at the night The face of the 
harvest moon was veiled by drifting clouds, yet hedge 

i6o 



AUTUMN i6i 

and tree stood out like some dark wood-cut and the 
road glistened with the rain. 

The deep silence of the country hung over all but 
far away it was broken by the sound of hoofs that 
gradually grew louder. 

She gathered up the rain-dashed curtains and se- 
cured them with a rueful smile as she thought of Day, 
who would certainly scold her for letting in what she 
called "night damp." 

Then she felt for the clock that stood on the dressing- 
table and turned the dial towards the light. 

Close on two! What an odd hour for a man to be 
riding through the village. Perhaps he was going for 
the doctor? 

She could not decide to return to bed until she had 
seen the traveller pass, and, drawing her dressing-gown 
around her, she waited, full of curiosity. 

At last as she strained her eyes down the lane, a 
dark form emerged from the shadows. She could 
hear now the suddng sound of hoofs sinking in soft 
mud. 

A heavy cloud blotted out the moon. She could only 
see the vague outline of a man, head bent, facing the 
wind, his cap jammed down over his eyes, astride a 
big and powerful horse as the pair passed beneath the 
window. But as the rider turned up the hill a touch 
of white near the ground caught her attention — a white 
sock I 

She was sure now. It was the centaur. 

She leaned out breathlessly and watched the bay break 
into a canter as they reached the steep incline ; then the 
night swallowed them up. 

"Well !" She drew in her head, amazed. "Then that 
proves it. It can't be Chris. But Tm certain it's the 
same horse. What a mystery it is! For who can be 
riding it? And why?" 

She went back, slowly, to bed, the question still puz- 
zling her. 

"Supposing it is what I thought — some intrigue with 
one of the maids at the Hall. A groom, perhaps? He 
couldn't see her at this hour. Not unless she slips out 



i62 AUTUMN 

when the others are sleeping? And it seems so un- 
necessary! She would have to go through that dark 
wood alone and risk the chance of being caught. Espe- 
cially as the Squire and his daughter are still camping 
out in the glade. 

"I give it up!" She snuggled down under the bed- 
clothes with a sigh. "Anyhow, I'm glad I waited. It 
shows how one can be mistaken." 

She felt rep^tant. Her suspicions had influenced 
her attitude' towards Pontef ract, whom she liked but had 
been inclined to mistrust. 

Her thoughts turned to Dieppe and that strangely in- 
congruous pair in that garish setting. She pictured, 
amused, the lady's ferrety, colourless face darting an 
ominous jealous glance at every pretty foreigner who 
dared to lay eyes on Chris. Visions rose up before her 
of a bony back tightly encased in Tussore silk, discreetly 
turned on the laughing crowd of bathers, and of the 
husband evading his duties at the first excuse to lose 
himself in more congenial surroundings. 

"I should like to see her at the Casino. I daresay 
she's shocked — and enjoys it! I've met plenty of peo- 
ple like that. The spectacle of moral weakness enhances 
their own sense of virtue! 

"I wonder why he married her ?" The squire's 

words rose to her mind. "He was caught — she laid 
some trap for him. . . ." Her speculations dissolved 
slowly into the clouds of dreamless sleep. 

When she awoke it was broad daylight Day was 
standing by her bed with her morning tea and two let- 
ters. The top one bore her mother's writing. 

"That will keep," thought Deirdre. "I think I'll have 
my breakfast first. It's sure to be disagreeable." 

For after Caradoc's departure she had sat down and 
written with cool decision, suggesting that her mar- 
ried life was her own affair and not her parent's. 

The other envelope, she saw, bore a foreign post- 
mark. She opened it quickly. 

Day was examining the curtains. 

"The rain's been in, mum, in the night. You might 
have caught your death of cold — ^the floor's that wet." 



AUTUMN 163 

Her voice was stern. "And I closed the windows last 
thing!" 

"But I opened them/? laughed Deirdre. "StuflFy sleep 
means a stuffy brain. Now, Day, don't scold me. I've 
just had some lovely news." She skimmed the letter 
eagerly. "Mrs. Robert Thursby's coming — and she 
wants me to put her up. Why! It's this wedc-end! 
How nice!" 

Day became practical. 

"Then I'd best get these curtains washed, and turn 
out the spare room. If Mrs. Grady came to-morrow 
she could finish the new valances. I hope, mum, you've 
remembered we're getting rather low with coal? And 
about wine, mum ? I don't know what Mrs. Thursby is 
used to drink — ^but there's only " 

"Oh! do be quiet!" Deirdre childishly screwed the 
envelope into % a ball and threw it at the little figure, 
neat and dapper, duster in hand, polishing the damp 
boards. 

"Listen! She says: 'Fm bringing you a little Paul 
Poiret gown and the cunningest hat you ever saw. It 
will make the village sit up. I haven't forgotten Day, 
either!' There, now! — aren't you excited? Oh, it Tvill 
be lovely to have her here !" 

"Yes, mum. If all's ready." 

The maid had the last word. But in the doorway she 
glanced back, her grey eyes wide and tender. 

"It'll do you good, mum, a bit o' company," and went 
noiselessly downstairs to impress on Mrs. Slack the need 
for wholesale cleaning — to start at once! 

She foresaw, undaunted, an orgy of work; of polish- 
ing and silver-rubbing till the place shone like a new 
pin. For her love was of the deeper sort, expressed in 
deeds and not in words. 

When Deirdre came down she found upon the break- 
fast table a basket in which peaches and grapes peered 
forth from fresh vine leaves. 

"From the Hall, mum," Day beamed. "They came 
just a minute since, with a note from Miss Hyacinth. 
The grapes would keep, mum, if hung up." Her mind 
still ran on preparations. 



i64 AUTUMN 

Her mistress smiled. "You can take them." She 
tore open the little letter. 

"Deirdre, dear," it began in a large square hand- 
writing with original twists to the capitals. "One has 
to place the adjective last, or it reads as if one were 
stammering! We're going over to Kilby for lunch — 
will you come? We'll call on the chance in the car at 
eleven o'clock, as we want to do some shopping first 
Don't fail us I 

"The fruit is from Rollo except the single nectarine, 
which grew on my wall. It was quite cold swimming 
this morning. I think you were wise not to turn up. But 
I missed you. 

"Yours, 

What a dear child it wasl Deirdre laid the message 
down and over her breakfast began to plan details of 
the coming visit 

"I'm going into Kilby this morning," she announced to 
Day when she came to clear. "I'll see to the coal and 
order some wine. Just make out a little list of any- 
thing else that we shall want." 

"In the Squire's car, mum?" Day brightened. "Fd 
best get out your thick coat It's 'parky.' And what 
about lunch, mum?" 

"I shall get it in Kilby." Deirdre smiled. "You'll 
have the place all to yourself." For she read the thought 
in the other's mind. 

"Thank you, mum," said Day simply. 

Indeed, to use her maid's favourite word, it was 
"parky," as they tore up hill and down dale a few hours 
later towards Kilby. 

Deirdre drew up the fur rug that covered her knees 
and Hyacinth's as they sat behind the Squire, who drove, 
indifferent to weather, disdaining the overcoat beside 
him. 

Hyadnth was rather silent. Once Deirdre glanced 
at her, surprised at the long gap in their talk. 

The girl looked tired. There were faint shadows 



AUTUMN 165 

under the beautiful blue-green eyes; an air of languor 
gave to her slim and drooping shoulders a delicate 
charm. 

"Arc you cold, dear?" Mrs. Caradoc asked. 

With a little start Hyacinth seemed to awaken from 
her dreams. 

"Not a bit — Fm lazy this morning. I couldn't sleep." 

They passed the quarry and came to the river and 
the brown fence which enclosed that large and ugly 
country mansion which advertised the late brewer's 
wealth. 

Old Saunders had planted it down very near to the 
main road with a brick and terra cotta lodge introduced 
as an afterthought. 

A plantation of Scotch firs was growing up as a screen 
between the massive building and the fence, but the 
upper windows were visible with all the blinds drawn 
down and the place looked as dead as its late owner. 

"The Pontefracts are still away, apparently," said 
Deirdre. 

''Yes — at Dieppe." Hyacinth nodded. "Have you 
ever been there? A horrible place; like an English bar- 
maid in French clothes." 

Deirdre laughed at the description. 

"I'm afraid I rather liked it," she said. "Not the 
Casino and hotel part, but the old town and the har- 
bour." 

"It wouldn't be bad without the people," the girl ad- 
mitted. "It means well, but the trail of the tourist lies 
over all — ^the worst class too, the parvenu one. I 
shouldn't mind it in the winter. I expect it really lives 
then ; a sleepy but a natural life without straining after 
eflfect." 

They were approaching the outskirts of Kilby, with 
brickyards and little rows of jerry-built houses. An 
acrid smell reached them from the gasometres. 

Mesurier slackened speed as they came to the com- 
mencement of the trams, and they dodged in and out of 
market-carts, drays and heavy loads of coal, with now 
and again a smart turn-out whose owner would wave 
to the Squire. 



i66 AUTUMN 

The road narrowed suddenly at the opening into the 
market place, where once an old gate had stood, between 
arcaded rows of shops and on their right was a bat- 
tered cross with worn steps surrounding it — a pic- 
turesque and peaceful note. 

It was market day and the wide paved square was 
covered with long lines of stalls heaped with vegetables 
and fruit, poultry and dairy produce. 

A little crowd stood around an auctioneer perched on 
a barrel in the midst of a sale of furniture ; and beyond 
him the ground was white and blue with coarse china 
of all descriptions, whilst here and there the sunshine 
played with the bright surface of kitchen tin ware. 

A varied scene, full of colour and life, hoarse voices 
and endless movement; from the stout women in white 
aprons busily trading in ^;gs and butter to the slow 
figure of a farmer walking round a new plough. 

"How Morland would have loved it ! — ^with that heavy 
cloud and the light beneath!" Deirdre was drinking it 
in. "That girl might have stepped out from one of 
his pictures — ^with the live duck under her arm !" 

Hyacinth nodded. 

"You should see it in Fair time. We always go — 
it's such fun! And one year we brought Aunt Byng. 
Ralph was home and he made her come. We went 
round all the side shows, but she struck at last at the 
Fat Woman — I suppose she felt sympathetic." Hya- 
cinth giggled, recalling it "The last show finished her 
— and no wonder! It was called by a most alluring 
name: just 'Umbratic Mysteries.' There was nothing 
to show what it meant. A sad-looking man walked 
up and down outside beating a drum in a green plush 
suit and yellow stockings. Ralph simply dragged us 
in. We sat down in the front row with Aunt Byng 
placed between us. It was very dark and horribly stuffy, 
but packed with people all sucking oranges. Then the 
curtain drew up to shew a bare white screen and a 
big shadow was thrown upon it — ^that of a very fat 
man. First he took off his coat, and his waistcoat, 
and undid his braces. Aunt B3mg — I could feel — was 
beginning to shake like a jelly. Virtuous indignation, 



AUTUMN 167 

you know ! And when he started to pull off his shirt 
Ralph had simply to hold her down. I felt a tiny bit 
nervous myself, but, lo, and behold! — like a snake, he 
wriggled out of everything and stood up— in a bran new 
suit! Then he bowed, kissed his hands to the ladies 
and the whole performance began again, with new 
thrills of excitement. The audience simply loved it! 
They roared with laughter! But at the third complete 
costume RoUo thought it time to go. I shall never 
forget Aunt Byng's face when we found ourselves in 
the open air. Ralph and I were weak with laughter. 
She wanted Rollo to write to the mayor." 

"Rather a Gallic touch for Kilby," Deirdre laughed 
heartily. "I suppose they thought that being in shadow 
it was only the ghost of impropriety." 

"I've always wondered," said Hyacinth, "what hap- 
pened at the finale. Ralph wanted to go back but Aunt 
Byng wouldn't hear of it, so we went on the Round- 
abouts instead. You've only got to say now 'Umbratic 
Mysteries' at Gorseton to see Aunt Byng at her 
best !" 

They pulled up before the County Bank and Rollo 
got down. 

"I'll cash that cheque and then if you want to go 
shopping I'll take the car to the White Horse." ^ 

He went inside whilst Hyacinth dragged off her heavy 
coat and helped Deirdre out of hers. 

"We'll leave these. They'll be all right. Look— 
there's Mrs. Gage. In a purple sport coat. Such a 
fright!" 

The rector's wife was trotting along, a tennis racket 
under her arm, beside her friend the spotty youth, her 
freckled face wreathed in smiles. 

"Let's get out before she sees us." She suited the 
action to the words and they crossed the narrow pave- 
ment quickly and gazed into a shop window. 

Mesurier emerged from the bank and was caught. 

Hyacinth pinched Deirdre's arm. "Poor Rollo ! Isn't 
she priceless?" 

They could hear Mrs. Gage babbling on behind them 
and see her face in the glass. 



i68 AUTUMN 



"He's shaken her off." Hyacinth turned. "Here we 
are — ^when you're disengaged!" 

The Squire scowled. 

"There's your money — don't spend it all. Or drop it 
I'll order lunch for one o'clock — will that do?" He 
looked at Deirdre. 

"You wouldn't like to come shopping too?" Mischief 
shone in her blue eyes. 

"I'm afraid I can't. I have to go and see my law- 
yers." Then he laughed. "f)on't get lost — I'm not sure 
you're both to be trusted on your own !" 

As they stood beside the car he leaned out from the 
driving-seat, a mischievous smile twisting his lips. "I'm 
going to have my hair cut. It's rather long, don't you 
think?" 

His dark eyes with keen delight saw the colour rise 
in Deirdre's face. Hyacinth whistled softly. 

"Did it interfere with Merlin's Spell?" 

Deirdre could have shaken her. 

"A little," said the Squire gently. "Nothing to hurt" 
He was moving off when suddenly his face changed. 
Another motor was drawing up, evidently to intercept 
him. 

Hyacinth clutched Deirdre. 

"Quick!" She dragged her down the pavement 

"Aunt Byng " she whispered the name. "RoUo's in 

for it again." 

"Serves him right!" said Mrs. Caradoc. 



After a busy morning's work it was nice to rest in 
the low-roofed room of the old inn reserved for them 
and eat the inevitable cold beef and apple tart sacred 
to England. 

"I don't think we'll try the coffee again," said Hya- 
cinth rather sadly. "It's only courting disillusion." 

"But cherry-brandy," suggested the Squire. "They 
can't put grounds into that" He lit Deirdre's cigarette 
and then his own so carelessly that the match at its last 
gasp burnt his fingers. 

'\Sapristir He flung it into the ^rate. 

"That's what comes of playing with fire." Hyacinth's 



AUTUMN 169 

face was so innocent that Deirdre again dismissed a faint 
feeling of suspicion. 

"It's an odd thing when our tea's so good," Hyacinth 
went back to the subject, "that we can't make coffee in 
this country. Now in France almost anywhere, in the 
smallest cafe, it's worth drinking. That reminds me" — •* 
she opened her bag and drew out an envelope — "Chris 
sent me some photographs — ^they're rather funny — of 
Dieppe. He calls this one" — ^she handed across a 
snapshot — " *The Antipon Family.' Look at fat mamma 
and papa with their fat offspring in the sea. All in a 
circle, holding on to each other^s hands for dear life 
in about a foot and a half of water. Aren't they touch- 
ing?" 

She leaned on the table and placed her hand over 
her father's. ^ 

"Why don't you wear a striped bathing-gown, and 
develop a figure, and look like a top?" 

"You don't feed me well enough," the Squire grum- 
bled. 

His daughter ran on, still pointing to the photo f 

"Isn't manuna's bathing-cap sweet, with its donkey's 
ears? And so useless! She'd never dream of ducking 
her head or of venturing into deeper water. I suppose 
it's to ward off sunstroke. But this is the gem!" 
She passed across another picture to the pair. "On 
the back is written, 'Her first cocktail.' Of course, it's 
really a lemon-squash. She's a hardened teetotaler." 

Against the background of the Casino, on the extreme 
edge of her chair, very stiff and absorbed, Mrs. Ponte- 
fract had been caught, a glass in her hand, solemnly 
sucking away at the straws. 

She looked as remote from the scene as a mission- 
ary at a cock-fight. Beyond her a gay French group 
were crowded round a marble table chattering and ges- 
ticulating, a waiter hovered in the background and a 
tiny child, dressed like a doll, with a big balloon was 
being captured by a stout "nourrice" beribboned gaily, 
her tartan cloak swun|^ out by the breeze. 

"I like her expression," said the Squire. "A shep- 
herd playing on his pipes ? Arcadian isn't the wotd fet 






170 AUTUMN 

it. A shq)herd in a boat-shaped hat. Any more y* He 
held out his hand. 

For a second the girl hesitated ; then she gave up the 
rest. 

"There's one of Qiris which a friend took — and a 
couple of views — ^nothing funny." 

"It's rather nice of the old chap. He's a good-looking 
man," the Squire commented ; "and this ?" 

"It's a little place called Puy. Mrs. Pontefract had 
a cold, so he took a day off and explored the country. 
It looks pretty, doesn't it?" 

"Yes." He passed it to Deirdre. She saw a carefully 
taken view of a narrow bay between high cliffs with a 
pebbly beach and bathing machines and the end of a 
building perched above it. 

What's that?— an hotel?" 

Tes. He lunched there. The 'Chateau de Puy.' 
There's a wooded valley that runs inland, with a few 
villas — so he says. He's lost his heart to one of them 
— a wee place with a pretty name tucked away among 
the trees. It's called 'Villa Nicolette.' There's a snap- 
shot of it somewhere." 

This one?" Deirdre found it. 

'Yes, with the low verandah." 

The Squire seemed to be lost in thought. Suddenly 
he made them start. 

"I've got it ! Listen, now." In his deep voice he be- 
gan to recite, giving each word its full value. 

"Dox est li cans, liax est li dis, 
£t cortois et bien assis, 
Nus horn n'est si esbahis, 
Tant dolans ni entrepris, 
De grant mal amaladis, 
Se il Toit, ne soit ^ris 
£t de joie resbaudis, 

Tant par est douce." 

"But I don't understand," said Deirdre. "Only a word 
here and there. It's not French ?" 

"It's Provengal," Mesurier smiled at her. "The legend, 
'Aucassin and Nicolette,' Shall I translate? Roughly, 
/ mean ?" 






AUTUMN 171 

"Please." 

He did so, line by line, hesitating over his task. 

"Grentle is the song, sweet is the note 
And courteous and cunningly blent, 
No man there is so distraught, 
So sad and so overtaken, 
With a great malady ill, 
That if he hear it could not be cured 
And his joy built up again. 

So greatly it is sweet" 



Hyacinth echoed the last sentence. 

" Tant par est douce.' I like that." 

"Thank you so much," said Deirdre. "I begin to re- 
member the story now. A slave girl and the son of 
a king. It's mentioned in that book you lent me. I 
read half of it last night." 

Mesurier nodded. "I think it is. The Felibres are 
doing a great work — saving the life of a beautiful lan- 
guage." 

He stared out of the dusty window, obviously lost to 
the world around him. < 

Hyacinth gently touched his arm. 

"Come back, RoUo." 

He started, then smiled. 

"Sorry." He gathered the photos together and handed 
them over to the owner. 

"I shall have to run up to town next week — ^about 
the house in Deanery Street. Would you like to come ?" 

She shook her head. 

"When do you go?" 

"I'm not sure." He turned to his other guest. "Did 
you say it was this week-end you were expecting your 
godmother?" 

For Deirdre had told them the news earlier in the day. 
. "Yes." She guessed his intention. "Don't go just as 
she comes. I do want you both to meet. I hoped I 
might bring her to the Hall." 

Mesurier laughed. 

"You seem to forget I'm no good at society!" He 
looked at her teasingly. "I think I'll settle to start on 
Friday." 



172 AUTUMN 

Deirdre shrugged her shoulders lightly but Hyacinth 
guessed she was disappointed. 

"He won't go. 1*11 promise you. That stupid old 
house can wait." 

"As a matter of fact, it can't," said the Squire. 'Tve 
been talking to Hughes this morning about it Still- 
perhaps a day or two. I can't resist the temptation, 
now that I come to think of it," he glanced up at Deir- 
dre, "of seeing the lady brave enough to 'renounce the 
devil and all his works' — in your name." His eyes twin- 
kled. 

"She's brave enough for anything." Deirdrc's face 
grew suddenly tender. "And the truest friend I've ever 
had." 

"That's a nasty one," said the Squire. 

His daughter nodded. ''We don't count." 

"Now that rivalry's introduced," Mesurier went on, 
"no power on earth shall drive me to town. The house 
can fall down — it probably will !" 

He explained the matter more soberly. 

"It belonged to my mother; she left it to me. It's 
Hyacinth's when she wants it. A nice little *pied d terr^ 
for her when she wishes to *mix in London society.' 
That's a pet phrase of Louisa's! And rather true! 
It if a mixture when either of us join the procession. 
I've had a good tenant for several years but he's just 
left and I've been told the place wants a thorough doing 
up — ^both the house and the furniture." He turned 
to his daughter. "You'd better come. You can choose 
the papers. Hyacinth. I'll give you carte blanche. Won't 
that tempt you?" 

For a moment the girl hesitated. Then she faced him 
honestly. 

"I'd rather stay here." 

Mesurier laughed. He did not seem to regret her 
verdict Deirdre, quietly watching the pair, guessed it 
had been a careful feeler on the Squire s part and that 
he was pleased to find that the girl preferred Weavers. 

"Well, I'll bring you home a present What shall 
it be?" 

Hyacinth brightened. 



AUTUMN 



173 



"Frocks — jewels — or chocolates? Aren't those what 
women like?" He appealed to Deirdre. "Furs for the 
winter?" He ticked oflF the items on his long fingers, 
one by one. 

"What I really want," said Hyacinth simply, "is a 
nice new collar for Olga." 



CHAPTER XVI 

'*So you don't r^^et coming here?*' Cousin Maddie 
smiled as she spoke, leaning back in the deep armchair, 
a dainty picture in the twilight. Her silvery hair was 
piled high above her pale and piquante face with its 
arched eyebrows and clever eyes, and she wore a won- 
derful mauve rest-gown wrapped around her diminu- 
tive form. 

"Regret it !" Deirdre laughed softly. "I don't know 
when I've been so happy. I m a different creature alto- 
gether." 

"You look it." Mrs. Thursby nodded. "It takes a 
burden off my mind. I was rather afraid you'd find it 
dull, after the first week or two. Weavers is hardly 
a gay place, but you seem to have made some pleasant 
friends. Tell me more of the Rara Avis who flies from 
all society, but seems inclined to haunt your nest About 
what age is this hermit bird?" 

"He's two years older than myself. But he doesn't 

look it. At least " she paused. "Well, you'll see 

him to-morrow, and Hyacinth too. They've asked us 
up to lunch at the Hall. I'm quite sure you'll admire 
the girl. I must show you a sketch I made of her." 
She rose to her feet and hunted for it among some 
papers on the table. 

"Here it is." She passed across a^ narrow portrait 
in water colour depictmg Hyacinth leaning agamst the 
old archway of grey stone, bareheaded, one slim hand 
laid upon tne Borzoi's collar. 

It conveyed the youthful charm of the model in her 
simple frock of faded blue, the slender neck and proud 
young head with its coronal of heavy plaits. 

Mrs. Thursby studied it. 

Is she really as pretty as that?" 

'Prettier far — her hair is lovely! — ^masses of the 
palest gold." 



«<1 



AUTUMN 175 

"You say she's half American?" 

"Yes." Deirdre hesitated. "But I'd rather you didn't 
allude to that. There's a tragedy connected with it. 
I think I had better tell you the story." 

She did so, with a few omissions, whilst Mrs. Thursby 
listened gravely. 

"A sad affair," was her comment when Deirdre had 
quite finished. "It makes me mad, too, to think it was 
one of my own countrywomen ! People in England are 
only too pleased to consider a girl of that class a type 
— rather than an unlucky exception." A slight frown 
was on her face. "I suppose that Mr. Mesurier thinks 
we are all tarred with the same brush ?" 

"Heavens, no ! He's too broad-minded." Deirdre had 
overlooked, in her keen sympathy for the Squire, the 
fact of how it might strike her godmother. She went 
on rather quickly: 

"I know exactly what you mean. It's just the same 
with me, myself, when I go abroad and find English 
people ignoring recognised foreign customs. I'm sure 
sometimes in Italy, when I've seen a chattering horde 
of tourists invade one of those beautiful churches and 
treat the place as a sort of show, I've felt too ashamed 
for words !" She paused, breathless and contrite. "But 
the Squire has travelled far too widely to label a race 
by an individual. I doubt, besides,, if Eulalie belonged 
to any recognised class — just people who had made 
money quickly and were 'doing Europe' as a part of 
the sudden rise in their fortunes." 

"I know the type," Mrs. Thursby sighed. "Utterlv 
brainless and pleasure-seeking, with a third-rate ed- 
ucation and an overwhelming desire to shine 1 The 
Squire must be a character. I always heard he was 
eccentric, but there's something very touching to me 
in the way he wandered off with his child — ^all alone 
— it's quite a romance! Haven't you a sketch of 
him?" 

"Not a good one," she hesitated. 

"Never mind ! I'd like to see it. It will give me some 
idea of the man." 

She watched Deirdre, unwillingly, search for it, her 



176 AUTUMN 



eyes twinkling with some secret mischievous thought 
"Now don't pretend you've torn it tq)!" 

"No— it's here/' She came back, holding the drawing 
in her hand. "I told you of our first meeting — how 
I took him for the gardener? Well, here he is in his 
native dress ! It's not finished. I did it from memory." 

Mrs. Thursby took it from her eagerly; then held 
it out, her eyes narrowed, at arm's length. 

"A regular gipsy! It's clever, though. . . . Unortho- 
dox — ^that touch of orange. Yes — I like it," she de- 
cided. 

For Deirdre had drawn the Squire boldly in profile: 
a chalk outline suggesting the thick and glossy hair 
and the bare brown throat; but beneath this she had 
added a daring splash of colour in the bandanna hand- 
kerchief, twisted in a loose knot 

It gave to the lean and virile face a subtle value hard 
to define. 

Mrs. Thursby tried to express it. 

"He looks — untrammelled, as though he lived in the 
open air — ^a gentleman-tramp ! I'm always sorry for por- 
trait painters nowadays with modem dress. In last year's 
Academy, portraits of men who appeared to be all clothes 
seemed to predominate. One carried away an impression 
of suits — not faces or characters. Large middle-aged 
gentlemen with the air of having dined well. (You could 
almost smell the roast beef I) However the artist may 
gloss over starched collars and other details, two-thirds 
of the canvas is covered with clothes and unless the 
features are arresting one is left with a horrible stuffy 
feeling of the moral victory of broadclodi !" 

Deirdre laughed. "You re quite right, but I think it's 
the sitters as well as their clothes. Portraits are often 
the result of affluence. They're luxuries, at any rate, 
by a well-known artist! And success does not always 
improve a face — ^it often adds a smug expression. I 
doubt if picturesque dress would help? There's noth- 
ing, for instance, harder to paint than a man *in pink,' 
or in uniform. It robs the skin of its natural colour. 
If I clothed the Squire entirely in orange he would 
probably look like a Malay I" 



AUTUMN 177 

"Instead of a farm labourer?" Mrs. Thursby was 
mischievous. "So this is the Rara Avis," she mused. 
"The hawk tribe — a bird of prey ! Fm not sure I quite 
approve of this new friendship of yours, my dear. He 
doesn't strike me altogether as a restful companion for 
*middle-age.' I remember you made a point of that and 
your g^ey hairs when last I saw you." 

Deirdre fidgeted. 

"If you're going to be aggravating " She took 

the sketch away from the critic. 

Mrs. Thursby laughed gaily. 

"I was only admiring your new beau. I sure think 
he's quite worth while. Do you get me ?" 

Deirdre laughed outright. 

"You're a demoralising person! You lie there in a 
Paris tea-gown like some dainty old French Marquise. 
full of scandal and anxious to find youthful follies all 
around you. You ought to be kept under lock and key 
with other priceless miniatures." 

Cousin Maddie, secretly flattered, stroked down the 
soft folds which had replaced her travelling dress with 
one tiny manicured hand. 

"I'm glad you admire it. I love mauve — ^this pinky 
shade. You must wear the gown I've bro:lght you at this 
lunch to-morrow. I reckon it will cotJplete the con- 
quest." 

Then, with one of her quick attackii* which Deirdre 
dreaded, she added lightly : 

"And how is Mark? I forgot to ask." 

She saw the faint shrinking movement with which the 
other received the question. 

"Oh, all right. Enjoying himself." 

Against her will the words were tinged with a slight 
note of bitterness. 

Mrs. Thursby's face went g^ave. 

"He knows you're here?" 

"Yes— now." 

A short silence fell between them. Then the older 
woman laid a hand over Deirdre's where she sat on a 
low stool by her side. 

"Tell me, sweetheart." Her voice pleaded. 



178 AUTUMN 

"There's nothing to tell." The deep blue eyes were 
fixed on some far distant object. "He came here a few 
days ago. To see, I suppose, if I still existed ! Mamma 
had given him my address. She knew I wished it kept 
a secret but she thought — so she writes — ^that it was 
her 'duty! She's been having a perfectly lovely time 
playing the role of peacemaker, and advising Mark to 
forget and forgive." 

Mrs. Thursby winced at this and the quiet scorn in 
the low voice. 

"Well?" She kept the reluctant hand in her loving 
clasp and gradually, as Deirdre realized the true and 
tender sympathy in her face, her own hard-won reserve 
broke down — a reserve of years in which she had tried 
loyally to screen Mark's failings. 

For the first time she laid bare the dreary background 
of her life: how the daily pursuit of economy by which 
she had tried to please ner husband had ended in her 
isolation from the pleasures that other women enjoyed, 
• both social and intellectual: how her own money had 
all gone in the household needs and to avert the scenes 
which so outraged her pride, leaving her shabby and 
ever at work.. 

"I make mo|t of my own clothes. But you can't sit 
and sew all dyy and then emerge a butterfly — ^you're 
too tired to enjoy life. You can't be smart on a small 
income unless you steal it from useful things. So of 
course Mark thought me dowdy and he didn't care to 
take me out. I don't mind being poor. It's not 
that." Her eyes filled. "I don't wish for gaiety or to 
shine in society. But one must have something to fall 
back on — understanding, companionship. But whatever 
I do without it's the same. Mark grumbles all the 
time. And, of course, it doesn't attect him. He's 
good-looking and popular. He has his club, his golf, 
his bridge — his men friends and his speculations. It 
never occurs to hi^n to think that the price alone of a 
box of golf balls or the money he wins or loses at 
cards would take m^- to a theatre and give me a break 
in my daily round, l^t looks on me as a mild resource 
when all his outside | interests flag and he grudges me 

t 

$ 



AUTUMN 179 

the money it costs to keep up our tiny flat. Fm not a 
comrade — I'm just a wife! That is, an unpaid servant! 
He makes me feel like a child of the poor whom he 
keeps out of charity. I don't really wonder that women, 
placed as I am, do rash things. And I don't believe it's 
so often passion as the desperate need for sjrmpathy — ^to 
feel that one is really wanted, for one's self alone, by a 
human being I" 

"My poor dear !" Mrs. Thursby had guessed at much 
that was hidden, but not at these depths. Wisely she 
let the burdened heart overflow without further comment 
as Deirdre took up her story again. 

"A child might have made all the diflFerence, but Mark 
never cared for one. Something to live for — protect and 
love — ^a respite in one's loneliness. Still" — she pulled 
herself in hand — "it wouldn't have done, I know that. 
Poor little soul! — ^a cramped life, grudged for every 
penny spent. No — it was better to bear it alone." She 
paused, her face still wistful. "But that's over — I'm out 
of prison ! I've tried my best and it's been a failure. I 
shall never go back on the old terms. It's not as if he 
needed me — he wasn't meant for a married man. He's 
perfectly happy by himself !" 

"I'm not so sure," said Cousin Maddie. She stroked 
the cold little hand in hers, choking down her indig- 
nation and giving her shrewd brain free play. "Mark is 
a true Englishman, with a morbid fear of showing emo- 
tion. He's taken you too much for granted." Her fine 
brows were drawn together. She wanted time to think 
things out and recover from a sense of shock and she 
went off on a side issue. 

"I wish your mother had left things alone. It was 
very foolish of her to meddle, but you mustn't misjudge 
her altogether. I expect she's sincerely worried about 
you and in this country people seem to ignore the fact 
that their children grow up. There's a lot of talk about 
liberty from the 'rights' of the working man to those 
of the House of Lords, but it strikes me you're all bound 
— hide-bound by tradition! And so fond of patching 
things up instead of wiping the slate clean. As if 
one could rivet love like china! There's nothing so 



i8o AUTUMN 

fatal in married life as 'patching up/ Honesty is the 
only base for happiness between a man and a woman; 
and here again you're evading main issues — both of you 
— ^playing a part ! I sure don't like it." She shook her 
head. *Td far rather you had a divorce." 

Deirdre started. 

"Oh — but I couldn't! I've no grounds for any ac- 
tion." 

Mrs. Thursby scoflFed at this. 

''I suppose if Mark were a maniac or a drunkard 
you'd still be chained to him, at a risk to yourself and 
the next generation. Your divorce laws make me tired !" 
She drew her tiny figure erect as though she were fight- 
ing the subtle infection. "Now, here's a case where you 
each desire — or so you believe — ^to become free. With 
no children to complicate matters and separate incomes 
— all fair sailing! Yet you're tied hand and foot for 
life unless you risk a public scandal by an act of folly 
or something worse. It's putting a premium on tempta- 
tion! 

"Legally, Mark, against your will, can force you to 
return to him or make your life a martyrdom by hatmt- 
ing you wherever you go." She winced as she faced 
the fact. "And you call Siis a 'free coimtry I' " 

"I could get a separation, perhaps?" 

"A weak form of compromise — not just to either 
party, with no possibility of re-marriage." 

Deirdre smiled scornfully. 

''That wouldn't trouble me. I've no wish to experi- 
ment further." 

"Not now," Mrs. Thursby returned. "But you can't 
answer for the future. You were never meant to live 
alone — ^too generous for a misanthrope. I expect your 
mother reahzed this — you mustn't be too hara on her." 

But Deirdre, deeply absorbed in the problem itself, 
evaded this opening. 

"I don't think Mark would ever insist. I mean on my 
returning to him. He's too proud to risk a refusal 
I guessed that the day he came here. Of course, he's 
most conventional and he'd hate the idea of people talk- 
ing. That was the reason he asked me to go and . . . 



AUTUMN i8i 

show myself with him at Le Touquet ! No, I shall never 
risk it again. Unless " she paused uncertainly. 

"Yes r ' came the quiet voice. 

Deirdre was staring ahead as though she could pierce 
the dim future. 

**If he were ill — very ill " she drew her breath 

through her teeth shiarply. "I don't know, even 
then!" Her face was a mixture of scorn and despair. 
"How can I tell? Oh, it's all so hard! You'll think 
me weak and vacillating — ^but there it is — ^ten years. 
It's a long time — the best years of one's life. It's not 
so easy to forget . . . everything. There are memories, 

some happy " her voice quivered. "One's pride 

wars with one's pity. And Mark's so helpless — in many 
ways. If he were ill and wanted me — ^the real me — 
with all his soul, I'd go back, I believe — anyhow, for 
a time. But I wouldn't do it just to be the housekeeper 

and '* she flushed, leaving the sentence, incomplete. 

"Never/ It's profaning love." 

Mrs. Thursby nodded her head. At last she saw a 
glimmer of light, but she kept her knowledge to her- 
self. She realised that the crux of the matter lay in the 
war of temperaments — ^the idealistic and material. 

Deirdre went on again. She seemed to be talking to 
herself, disjointedly, as though alone. 

"If he needed me — ^as I am — ^the intellectual side as 
well, for a companion, a true helpmate, I'd try and 
put up with his deadly temper. But to simulate passion 
I don t feel — ^to move silent about his house in between 
brief spurts of affection, as a part of his scheme of 
economy: bereft of all that is sweet in life, neglected, 
scolded, shouted at — shamed before my own servants — 
it's selling one's soul for the price of one's food; it's 
nothing less than prostitution!' 

Her voice rang fearless through the room. 

"There — it's out! It sounds vile. But it's the truth 
—the naked truth!" 

Loosening her hand from the other's clasp, she rose 
to her feet with a free gesture and stood facing the 
white-haired woman. 

"Here I lead an honest life, with liberty of mind and 



i82 AUTUMN 

body. I'm better for it — ^finer — cleaner! Pm winning 
back my self-respect. No more pretence and subterfuge ; 
weak pardons whilst insults rankle; half-loves and half- 
desires and the shame of perpetual compromise." 

Her eyes shone. She had reached the point of decision 
after long hours of thought. 

Mrs. Thursby understood. Here was no heedless out- 
burst of temper, but a soul which had found itself, 
through pain. 

It swept away the American's last doubt and it ap- 
pealed to her own ardent femininity and strong national 
instinct for freedom. 

"You're right. I sure agree with you. Stay here 
and wait events. If Mark's some man he'll win you 
yet. If not, you've earned your liberty. I wish you 
could have it fixed by law, but perhaps there will be no 
need for that. Meanwhile, don't worry any." 

She caught the infection of Deirdre's mood, and, rest- 
less herself, began to move up and down the narrow 
room, finding relief in definite action. 

'I'm not afraid for you in the end. People might 
say I had no right to encourage you to rebel. Your 
mother would; but she's no judge, too absorbed in con- 
ventional claims. 

"You've gone through a bitter fight. I reckon you've 
won the right to choose. It mayn't last — this breathing 
space. Time has a habit of hustling events! But it's 
healing you, renewing your spirit, arming you for what 
lies ahead. 

"Don't look back — look forward. You're still young, 
for all your talk, and every age brings its blessing. 
There's more to that than a platitude! I've proved it 
myself and you will too. Youth is sweet but I've learnt 
this secret : it's only sweet if one makes it so. It's what 
one brings to life oneself. And that's true of old age! 
It's the spirit within that really counts — the young heart 
in the old body. The flesh fades but the soul goes on, 
growing in beauty and understanding." 

"Yours does." Deirdre checked the speaker in her 
turbulent walk and clung to her for a moment. Then 
she held her at arm's length with a laugh that was 



AUTUMN 183 

tremulous but sweet. "You dear brave thing — ^what a 
mite you are ! How do you get that big soul tucked away 
in your tiny body ?" 

"I don't. It goes out in filaments all over the world 
to those I love." Mrs. Thursby gazed deep into the 
beautiful tender eyes. "Haven't you felt it drifting about 
like thistledown at Four Comers?" 

"I believe I have. It's part of the spell this dear old 
place has cast upon me. I can never be grateful enough 
to you — ^you perfect fairy godmother!" 

Then will you do something to please me, sweet?" 

"Yes, of course — if I can!" 

"Write a nice letter to your mother." 

Deirdre drew back. "Why ? I must have your reason 
first." 

"It's a simple one," said Cousin Maddie. "But I 
wrap it up in excuses. One of these is purely worldly. 
I think just now it is hardly wise for you to break 
away from your people. Another thing is — I know your 
mother. She has always ruled in her own house and 
she's gotten the habit — ^you can't change her. She means 
well — now, don't smile ! I know they're the worst class 
to deal with. They think it's enough to have virtuous 
intentions without using the brains God gave them. They 
won't face things from all sides, but content themselves 
with a moral squint, leaving the rest to Providence, 
whose hands are full of graver matters then providing 
myopic glasses for saints ! Your mother can only see in 
a circle — a narrow one that turns on herself — ^but you're 
included in the vision. She's bound to be worried about 
you, child." 

She paused, a pleading look on her face. 

"But the 'real reason' — ^you haven't told me." Deirdre 
gave her a loving shake. "I'm not to be drawn down a 
side track leading to theories — and opticians !" 

Mrs. Thursby absently straightened the soft collar of 
lawn that was open at the speaker's throat. 

"Did I give you that little brooch? I seem to re- 
member it, somehow." 

Then she looked up and nodded her head, as Deirdre 
made no reply. 



i84 



AUTUMN 



"You're an obstinate woman! You want my secret? 

Well " she paused, a divine smile lighting up the 

dark eyes and playing about her humorous mouth. 

"It's just— that I'm a mother myself!" 



CHAPTER XVII 

To please her cousin, Deirdre wore the new frock next 
day ; a simple but very charming one in navy blue, with 
a deep collar of Dutch linen' in which quaint stripes of 
brown and orange predominated. 

The sombre scheme suited her and Mrs. Thursby was 
satisfied as she marked how the shady sailor hat of in- 
digo straw, with its narrow wreath of little Tangerine 
oranges, accentuated the blue of her eyes and the red- 
brown gleams in Deirdre's hair. 

"You look absurdly young, my dear," her godmother 
said with a smile, as they settled themselves in the 
station cab ordered for the g^eat occasion. To herself 
she added: "And how Mark can risk the chance of 
losing you is beyond all comprehension. The man's 
either blind or a fool!" 

But out aloud she ran on: 

"Your carriage hardly matches your gown! Will it 
hold together as far as the Hall ? The cab, I mean, not 
the stitches." 

"I think so — if we sit still!" Deirdre laughed at the 
question. For the archaic conveyance with its curious 
smell of mouldy leather and springless heavily jolting 
frame seemed to warrant the remark. 

"It's only a mile to the North lodge. I generally take 
a short cut through the woods, but I thought to-day 
you would find it wet; and, besides this, by the time 
you've been all round the gardens Tm sure you'll have 
had enough walking." 

Mrs. Thursby nodded her head, peering out through 
the lowered window as they toiled up the long hill 
behind the equally ancient horse. 

"It seems strange to be here again. I was too busy 
getting settled to explore beyond the village street. 
Then, as you know, I left in haste when my Tittle Lisa 
was taken sick. I hardly know the place at all." 

185 



i86 AUTUMN 

"You'll lose your heart to the Hall — it's centuries old 
and full of treasures. There's the church!" She went 
on to talk of the "Mesurier tomb." 

They reached at length the lodge gates and, passing 
through, found themselves in the long avenue of limes. 
Bees were still busy there, though the frosty mornings 
were heralding in Autumn unmistakably. Between the 
trees they could see the bracken, stretching away on 
either side, crisp and golden, and as they approached 
the crescent curve of the woods they caught splashes 
of red and brown where the leaves were turning rapidly. 

The cab emerged from the shady arch where the 
branches met overhead and began to climb the upward 
slope that was capped by the Hall, g^ey and massive, 
against a cloud-flecked sky of blue. 

Mrs. Thursby was quite excited. 

"Say, isn't that a picture! It's like a page of his- 
tory — the sort of place one sees in a siege in some old 
book of the Wars of the Roses. I'd no idea there was 
anything so fine as this in sleepy Weavers." 

They were ushered in solemnly by Olivers. Hyacinth 
ran to meet them from where she was putting tiie last 
touch to a bowl of roses in the hall. 

"There you are! Fm so glad." She kissed Deirdre 
lovingly and turned to greet her other guest. 

"I've heard such a lot about you! I've been simply 
dying to meet you." 

The hearty welcome pleased Mrs. Thursby, prepared 
for a more formal one, with her usual mistrust of 
"British stiffness !" 

"I'm ve-ry pleased to make your acquaintance." She 
shook the delicate hand warmly. "And what a per- 
fect home you have." Her eyes went up to the space 
above her. 

Hyacinth whispered to Deirdre. 

"I've sent Rollo up to change. He had on his oldest 
clothes. I had to be very firm with him." 

The phrase fell quaintly from her lips. It was evi- 
dent that she was anxious to do honour to Deirdr^'s 
^est. 

''Here he comes l" 



AUTUMN 187 

At the head of the stairs the Squire appeared, un- 
usually neat in a dark blue suit and high collar. A mis- 
chievous smile was on his face. Deirdre guessed that 
he was amused at his daughter's sudden conventionality. 

"Good morning !" He waved his hand. 

Mrs. Thursby, looking up, thought how he fitted into 
the picture with his keen, aristocratic face, easy limbs 
and air of breeding. 

"A fascinating man," she decided as she watched his 
meeting with Deirdre and his introduction to herself. 

Never at a loss for words, she began to move round 
the hall, her host beside her, admiring the old furni- 
ture. The Squire, inclined to be critical, found that this 
tiny American woman knew her subject thoroughly and 
in a few minutes they were engrossed in a discussion 
on old pewter. 

"I ,wish I had this set complete. They're 'Merry 
Men' plates," said the Squire. He reached up to the 
shelf above him and took one down for his guest to 
examine. 

"They're dated, you see, 1702." He read out the in- 
scription, smiling: 

"What is a merry man? 
Let him do what he can 
To entertain his guests, 
With wine and merry jests. 
But if his wife does frown, 
All merriment goes down." 

Mrs. Thursby laughed. 

"A very proper sentiment too!" 

The Squire nodded. 

"And more refined than this one, for instance." He 
held out a "London Plate" for her to read the words 
in the centre. 

She deciphered it eagerly: 

"AVhcn this you use 
Have what you chews," 

and catchin|^ the Squire's mischievous glance, laughed 
s^in, heartily. 



i88 AUTUMN 

Hyacinth, watching the pair, slipped an arm through 
Deirdre's with a quick sigh of relief. 

"That's all right," she confided. "Rollo is so tiresome 
sometimes. But I think to-day he's going to be good. 
How pretty her white hafr is! — ^and I like the way she 
holds her head. Like a bird — I'm sure she's a dear!" 
Her eyes ran over Deirdre's frock. 

"That's new, isn't it? I don't think I ever saw it 
before." 

"Yes — it's a present from Cousin Maddie. She 
brought it me from Paul Poiret's." 

Hyacinth was struck by a thought. 

"Rollo !" she called across the hall. "You and Deirdre 
match each other. Blue serge and a touch of yellow — ^in 
your tie and her hat! Did you evolve the scheme to- 
gether?" 

"She copied me," said Mesurier promptly. "She 
knows that I set a fashion in dress." He slipped a finger 
inside his collar with a comical glance at the household 
tyrant. "Your fault — I'm so unhappy." 

"Take it off," said Hyacinth, relenting as she saw him 
wriggle his bronzed neck in the starched grip. She 
explained simply to Mrs. Thursby. 

"I made him put it on — for you. He generally wears 
the turn-down kind, or none at all." 

Mrs. Thursby, catching Deirdre's twinkling eyes, 
choked back her rising mirth. For Mesurier had the 
guilty look of a schoolboy, found out ! 

She turned to him. 

"I'm highly flattered. 7/ faut souffrir pour etre beau/ 
But I'm sure you're happier as you were ^n that little 
sketch I saw last night, with a nice gipsy handkerchief 
knotted loosely round your throat?" 

"What sketch?" He seemed surprised. Deirdre 
darted a warning glance at the first speaker, but Mrs. 
Thursby was too mischievous to desist. 

"You mean to say you haven't seen it? Why, it's 
excellent — quite one of her best!" 

"No." He lifted a bowl from the table. "Are you 
fond of Lowestoft china?" 

''Sure." She laughed but took the hint "That's a 



AUTUMN 189 

beautiful piece." She drew off her glove and passed 
her hand over the glaze. "Doesn't it feel delicious ?" she 
said. "Porcelain always talks to me, and this has a his- 
tory to tell." 

The butler announced that lunch was ready, and they 
moved into the dining-room. 

Here again it was evident that the young hostess had 
done her best to make an extra hospitable effort. 

It pleased Deirdre; she guessed the reason. It lay 
in the girl's love for herself and besides this she could 
see that her godmother was impressed. She had rather 
dreaded the meeting between the latter and her new 
friends, for she knew that Mrs. Thursby was in many 
ways critical. 

The talk drifted to places abroad and here the Squire 
held the advantage. The American knew all the beaten 
tracks, but Mesurier's knowledge went deeper than this. 
They found, however, a friend in common — Ezio Barri, 
the Florentine sculptor. 

"I ran across him at Bellaggio this summer," said Mrs. 
Thursby. "He was staying at a villa there." 

"With the Mordinis?" RoUo asked. 

"Yes, the same old faithful friendship. Lettice and 
he are always together. It's quite a recognised insti- 
tution! I used to know her as a girl before she mar- 
ried Count Gino. She lived not far from us in New 
York. A dear woman — ^very artistic. I don't wonder 
Barri admires her. Of course, it's known to be quite 
platonic." 

Mesurier smiled. 

"Why label it? Romance is so scarce in this work- 
a-day world." 

Mrs. Thursby 's eyes narrowed. 

"You seem to regret my definition. Yet to me it 
seems a perfect thing that a friendship like that can 
exist without the slightest misunderstanding." 

"No doubt." Mesurier held his ground. "It shows 
how popular they are ! All the same, I have a suspicion 
that its lasting power is probably based on a little more 
than simple friendship. You see, I know Barri well. 
He's a dreamer of dreams — a real Romantic. He 



igo AUTUMN 

asks for the best there is in life. Besides, although 
in theory one admits to platonic affection, I doubt if in 
practice it really exists — that is, between live men and 
women." 

Mrs. Thursby frowned at this. She drew a strongly 
marked line between flirtation and an)rthing stronger, 
and held the puritanical views of many of her country- 
women. 

"I should be very sorry," she said, and her voice was 
a shade stiff, "to think that there was an)rthing further 
or to hold the slightest doubt of it." 

"Why?" Mesurier's mouth hardened. "I never can 
understand why love is looked on as a subtle disgrace. 
I think — controlled — that it completes the circle of a 
perfect friendship. That it quickens the spark of un- 
derstanding and breaks down the barrier of sex. There 
must always be antagonism between a man and a woman. 
It's one of Nature's mysteries. Love alone seems to 
bridge it." 

"Rather a dangerous doctrine." His visitor was study- 
ing the mood reflected in his face. She was somewhat 
surprised by the open way he discussed the question 
and still more by the downright line he took. She be- 
gan to mistrust this friend of Deirdre's. 

The Squire, warming to his subject, went on unde- 
terred by her slightly aggressive attitude. "I'm inclined 
to think that a knowledge of love is a stimulant to men- 
tal sympathy. If a man really cares for a woman and 
knows that the feeling is returned, he lays aside his 
mask of reserve, particularly a Southerner! He can 
afford to be natural — to show himself as he really is, 
without the trappings of convention — and his thoughts 
leap to meet hers. It's the surest key to telepathy." 

"That's all very well with single people," Mrs. 
Thursby interposed, "but Lettice is married." She un- 
derlined it. 

Mesurier, to her annoyance, laughed. 

"Well, we'll grant that makes a difference! To her. 
But what about poor Barri ? Setting aside conventional 

laws " He paused, aware for the first time of the 

silence of the other pair. 



AUTUMN 191 

Hyacinth was drinking in the conversation eageriy, 
and the Squire with a sudden flicker of conscience aban- 
doned his argument. 

"As a matter of fact, it all depends on the individ- 
ual," he wound up lamely. "One can't make rules for 
other people. Love is a personal equation." 

His eyes returned to his daughter. 

"What do you say. Hyacinth, out of the depths of 
your experience ?" 

She shrugged her shoulders, inwardly vexed, and 
glanced across at Mrs. Thursby. , 

"He always treats me like a child ! But I'm not — I'm 
eighteen next birthday." 

"A lovely age," the American smiled. "I envy you I 
Are you fond of dancing?" She was rather glad to 
change the topic. "Do you get many balls rotmd here?" 

"No. I've never been to one. Not in this country," 
Hyacinth answered. "But I can dance," she added 
gravely. 

Mrs. Thursby looked surprised. She wondered if 
Mesurier played the part of indiflFerent parent, keeping 
the girl selfishly away from the pleasures due to her 
age. 

But Hyacinth ran on: "The last time was in Paris. 
Such fun! D'you remember, RoUo? At the Bal Ta- 
barin." 

Deirdre interposed. 

"Do tell us all about it." She had seen her god- 
mother's eyes widen, but she could not resist the temp- 
tation of hearing the girl's account of the evening and 
anything seemed better than a return to the old topic. 

"We were coming back from Corsica," said Hyacinth, 
"and we stopped for the night in Paris. We'd only 
hand luggage with us and we couldn't go to the Opera 
or any place where you must dress. So RoUo suggested 
Montmartre, knowing I'd alwa^ longed to explore it 
since Chris told me how jolly it was. We dined at a 
little restaurant and then drove to a cabaret — such a 
fascinating place ! — like a kitchen, with copper pans hung 
round a deep grate. No proper platform, just a piano, 
and the audience sat round bttle tables anywhere. 



192 AUTUMN 

We had cherry brandy — with cherries in it — awfully 
nice! And people sang, one after another, and we all 
joined in the chorus. There was one man with a won- 
derful voice who, it turned out, was the 'patron.' He 
thought that I was Rollo's wife!" she laughed gaily. 
"Didn't he, RoUo? You remember — he called me ta 
petite femme' — and then when you wouldn't buy those 
songs he said: II n'est pas ginereux, ton hommef 
That was to me, and you were furious ! You must re- 
member?" 

"Yes," said Mesurier, rather quickly, "I think I do. 
Go on." 

"Well, we stayed there till ever so late and then wc 
went on to the ball. Rollo and I danced hard — z, good 
floor and an excellent band. The people were so funny 
to watch ! It was a special Spanish night and they had 
a troupe of gipsy dancers. But I didn't think very much 
of them — not half so good as some we had seen in an 
underground cafe in Seville. Still it was very cheery 
and gay and everybody seemed so happy. At last, when 
the daylight was coming in, we decided to go; but out- 
side it was so fresh and clear and lovely it seemed a 
shame to think of bed. So we drove right out into 
the Bois. I'll never forget it." Her face lit up. "After 
all that heat and noise, the cool dewy green of the leaves, 
with the lake asleep and the absolute stillness. The 
cocker must have thought us mad ! He took us, g^rum- 
bling, to St. Cloud and we breakfasted on a balcony over- 
looking the broad river — lovely new rolls, all crisp, with 
honey." 

She smiled now at the recollection. 

"What an evening's entertainment! Weren't you 
tired?" Mrs. Thursby looked curiously at the girl. 

"Not a bit! I'm never tired. We were going home 
the same day, but when we got to Dieppe the sea looked 
too tempting. So we stopped there for a few days and 
had some bathing and then Rollo thought I ought to see 
Rouen. We didn't get back for another month!" 

"We're rather erratic travellers," the Squire explained 
cheerfully. "The secret, of course, is to have no lu|;gage. 
In the end we found ourselves once more in Pans and 



«1 
«1 



AUTUMN 193 

this suggested a week in Brussels, so we came home 
that way." 

"But what do you do about clothes?* Mrs. Thurs- 
by's massive trunks formed no light item in her prog- 
ress. 

"Oh, buy thin^ as we go along — when the others 
wear out/ Hyacinth answered. "We always take a 
change with us and one generally finds a shop some- 
where." 

She spoke so indifferently that Mrs. Thursby stared 
at her. 

But don't you like pretty frocks?" 
Not to wear," said Hyacinth. "I like to see them op 
other people, but here at Weavers one doesn't want 
tfiem. It must be dreadful to have to think all the 
time of one's appearance; It's being a slave to one's 
possessions! You know what Thoreau says about it: 
A wcHnan's dress is never done.' So I try and avoid 
that tax on life — as far as propriety pernditsl" She 
laughed as she added the saving clause. 

"Another clever thing he says is: 'Beware of all en- 
terprises that require new clothes and not rather a new 
wearer of clothes. If there is not a new man, how 
can the clothes be made to fit?' I like that, don't 
you?" 

"In theory," her guest smiled. "But I must admit 
I'm very fond of wearing pretty things myself. And 
it makes the world a brighter place." 

"I daresay it does, when you live in a town." Hya- 
cinth was thinking it over. "It breaks the monotony of 
the streets; but in tiie cotmtry Nature supplies colour- 
ing and fresh green. And you can't garden in frills 
and laces I I like to feel free and able to move. That's 
partly why I hate London. Just think of the time wasted 
on changing into fresh frocks at different hours; and 
you're just the same yourself, really — ^all that matters — 
underneath. One oughtn't to need silks and satins to 
show to which class one belongs! After all, that's the 
main idea when one gets down to primary causes. To 
impress the world widi one's social status through one's 
clothes — ^it seems so childish." 






194 AUTUMN 

She glanced across at the Squire, watching her with 
serious eyes. He realised her mute appeal and chimed 
in, interested. 

"Thoreau isn't sure there. D'you remember he says 
— I think it's in 'Walden' — ^'It is an interesting question 
how far men would retain their relative rank if they 
were divested of their clothes.* When I read the passage 
it made me think of the dear old Hans Andersen story 
and the Emperor, robed in majesty — and nothing else! 
— who f otmd to his cost that his people laughed behind 
his back." 

Mrs. Thursby smiled at this. 

'Which shews that one mustn't run to extremes." 

'Unless they meet," suggested the Squire. "Or are 
properly patched ! Is it too chilly, do you think, to have 
our coffee outside? The sun is hot but the wind's in 
the East." 

"If I may choose, I'd prefer it here. When you get 
to my age you'll understand." She nodded her white 
head gaily. "One's circulation is not so brisk, however 
young one's heart remains." 

The Squire's eyes thoughtfully rested on the speaker'^ 
face. 

"Yes," he said, "yo^i ^oW that secret." 

He did not attempt to explain his words, but Mrs. 
Thursby understood. For the first time she felt a wave 
of sympathy pass between them. 

"Thank you." 

Hyacinth and Ddrdre were talking together. She 
leaned forward, under cover of their chatter and added 
in a lower tone, 

"As an old woman still deeply in love with youth, I 
appreciate the compliment. For you speak from a sure 
sense of advantage and I accept the flattery, knowing 
the years that lie between us. This really is a con- 
fession of weakness!" She paused for a second, then 
went on before he could say the obvious thing: "If men 
would only understand the power they have and use it 
wisely there would be fewer unhappy women." 

Mesurier's face grew rather grave. 

"I don't quite gather what you mean. I doubt, apart 



AUTUMN 19s 



from a physical one, if my sex can lay claim to any 
advantage over your own." 

"Don't you ?" Her fine brows went up with a slightly 
incredulous expression. "Yet they still hold the initia- 
tive in most emotional situations. It is theirs to ask 
and the woman to give." 

"Or withhold," the Squire interposed shrewdly. 

"Mercifully." She smiled at him but went on de- 
terminedly. "For instance, to go back to that case un- 
der discussion just now — the Moldini friendship—'* 
her eyes narrowed. "Barri could do immense harm if he 
chose to play an ignoble part. I'm fond of Lettice. 
I don't think she'd ever allow anything to sway her 
own rigid sense of virtue, but the chance is it could un- 
dermine insidiously her love for her husband. You 
never can tell — ^that's the trouble! I believe in friend- 
ship, honest friendship and — Fm no prude! — in honest 
flirtation, where both know they are playing a game 
with no deeper sentiment. But a friendship that holds 
the germ of passion is always dangerous to a woman. I 
don't mean in a worldly sense alone, I mean spiritually. 
For women are easily moved by pity — ^the generous ones 
— ^and there's always a risk that they may confuse pity 
with love, and then the trouble gets acute." 

"But supposing," said Mesurier, "that pity held no 
part in it, isn't love better than friendship? Fm not 
talking now of passion but the love which can under- 
stand and protect — ^give without hope of any reward ?" 

Mrs. Thursby shook her head. 

"If it's as fine and unselfish as that it would not 
shrink from sacrifice. I don't believe in compromise. 
The man would see that retreat alone was the only 
honourable course. You can't have a woman balanced 
between two men who both love her. It's an ambiguous 
position full of warring influences." 

She laid down her coflFee cup, aware of a silence on 
her right, and glanced across at Hyacinth. 

"Would you like to come out now," said the girl, 
"and have a stroll around the garden?" 

She rose from her chair eagerly as Mrs. Thursby ac- 
quiesced. 



196 AUTUMN 

"I want so much to see your flowers. Deirdre has been 
raving about them and your 'blue vista/ You see, I 
know all about it/' she added, smiling. 

Hyacinth held the window back for Mrs. Thursby to 
pass through. 

"Take care — ^there's a deep step. That's right — ^now, 
across the lawn. I hope your shoes are thidk enough. 
There was some heavy rain last night" 

Mesurier checked Deirdre as she was following the 
pair. 

"Wait a minute! You'd better light your cigarette 
in here/' he said. He held out his case to her and 
struck a match, then lowered his voice. « 

"Do I look improved — ^morally?" His face was full 
of quiet mischief. 

Deirdre was obliged to la^igh. 

"Why? She hasn't been scolding you?" 

"Deliciously. She's a perfect dear ! All by inference, 
you know, so as not to wound my feelings." 

"But what about?" asked Deirdre. 

"Ah ... I" He refused to be drawn. "Come 
along." 

Side by side they went down the pair of steps on to 
the lawn. But Deirdre, unaccustomed to the narrow 
skirt decreed by Paris, tripped over the lower one. 

The Squire's hand shot out and saved her narrowly 
from disaster. 

"Hold up !" he laughed at her. 

Mrs. Thursby had turned round and was waiting 
beside Hyacinth. The Squire did not relinquish his 
grasp. Instead, he slipped his hand further through 
Deirdre's arm, his face careless. 

"What's the idea of having a skirt barely a yard in 
circumference? Economy? I've a great mind to make 
you run across the lawn!" 

"No, RoUo!" Hyacinth cried. "You mustn't, to- 
day." She frowned at him. "It's her best frock," she 
added severely. 

They all laughed at this simple statement. 

Mrs. Thursby, watching the pair, began to doubt her 
Brst impressions. 



AUTUMN 



197 



"There's nothing in it," she said to herself. "He'd 
be more careful if there were." 

The Squire, reading the thought in her face, pre- 
served an impassive countenance. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

Deirdre stood watching the train puff out of the vil- 
lage station, a little surprised at her own mixed feelings 
over Mrs. Thursby's departure. 

Her godmother had lingered on from day to day, 
loth to leave, enjoying the novel simplicity of this quiet 
life with the woman she loved. 

They had not seen the Squire again. He had left for 
town on the morning after their limch at the Hall, bul 
Hyacinth had flitted in and out of Four Comers, taking 
the pair for long drives whenever the weather favoured 
the scheme. 

Now as a cold wind stirred the trees at the end of 
the narrow country platform and the train vanished 
out of sight, Deirdre, with a little shiver, set out home- 
wards, her face thoughtful. 

She was trying in vain to analyse the faint feeling of 
relief that deadened her genuine regret in saying good- 
bye to "Cousin Maddie." 

"I must be getting a regular hermit." She marched 
briskly down the road, picking her way between the 
puddles, for the rain had been heavy in the night "I 
really enjoy being alone. It's odd — ^because I never used 
to. But, somehow, with Cousin Maddie here I seem to 
have had no time to think ! Although I'm awfully fond 
of her, that curious restlessness of hers gets on one's 
nerves; she's never still or happy unless she's planning 
something. And yet, such a darling!" She caught her- 
self up, aware of a hint of disloyalty. "I suppose it's 
really my own fault. I've got into a hopeless groove 
and thoroughly out of worldly ways. And she's a 
woman of me world — cosmopolitan to the core." Her 
brows met in a quick frown. "Whilst I'm an idle Bo- 
hemian! At heart she's quite conventional; she doesn't 
approve of all I do. Yet I always believed that Ameri- 

1S» 



AUTXJMN 199 

cans were more broad-minded, as a nation, over friend- 
ships between men and women." 

She paused in her analysis, aware of reaching the 
crux of the matter. For in their long talks together the 
older woman had introduced a note of warning — not 
always veiled — in reference to Mesurier. Although Mrs. 
Thursby had recognised the man's intellectual charm, she 
had not been attracted to the Squire, save for a single 
fleeting moment. She mistrusted his moral principles 
and the influence he might possess. 

The eflfect of her attitude had been to arouse in Deir- 
dre to the full the partisan spirit. Loyally she had de- 
fended the absent friend and Mrs. Thursby had recog- 
nised — ^too late — the mistake that she had made. 

They had dropped the subject by tacit consent, but a 
faint sense of injustice rankled sub-consciously in Deir- 
dre's mind and now in her first moments of freedom 
from the duties of hostess she was aware that the 
way lay open once again to the old happy comrade- 
ship. 

For, somehow, Weavers without the Squire seemed 
shorn of its personality. She had hardly realised how 
much he counted in the daily round. He had given her 
what she so sorely lacked ; a brain to pit her own against 
and beyond this he had opened out a new world — that 
of Nature. She felt for him the eager aflfection which 
draws a pupil to a teacher and although at times they 
disagreed, on many points their beliefs touched. Her 
cramped intellectuality had unfolded in this new warmtih 
and the womanhood in her was flattered by the equal 
terms on which they met. 

Mrs. Thursby had narrowed the outlook to the old 
standard of convention; had seen in it a question of 
sex and possible dangers arising therefrom. The spark 
of truth that lay concealed in her godmother's dictimi 
added point to the contentions; for Deirdre, incurably 
honest, could not avoid the knowledge of how much 
the Squire admired her. She knew he fled from most 
of her sex, but sought her out continuously, and she 
tried to place this to the score of her influence over 
Hyacinth. 



200 AUTUMN 

Yet in her heart a still voice sang: "He likes you, 
and needs you — for yourself!" 

Ah! that "need": the eternal cry of generous lonely 
womanhood; of thwarted maternity and passion, wasted 
love and broken hopes. . . . 

"Good morning, Mrs. Caradoc." 

She started. The Rector stood before her. In her 
absorption sh^ had not seen him emerge from a neigh- 
bouring cottage. 

Her face cleared as she shook hands. 

"How are you? I've just been up to the station to 
speed my parting guest. She's sailing for New York to- 
morrow." 

"Yes? You'll miss her," he suggested. "And Weavers 
will be emptier still ! So many people are away. I had 
a line from my wife this morning" — ^he fell into step 
by her side — "and where do you think she is now? 
In Dieppe! The postmark astonished me! She was 
staying, you know, with Daisy at Seaford before the 
child went back to school and it seems Mrs. Pontefract 
wired to her to come over by Newhaven. So Daisy 
was packed off to my sister and Dora crossed on Thurs- 
day morning." 

"I should think she would enjoy Dieppe." 

"Yes, a nice change for her; it's most kind of Mrs. 
Pontefract. Of course, she's going as her guest. Chris 
has had to return to London on urgent business — his 
wife is alone. Dora will keep her company and she 
seems delighted at the prospect." 

He paused outside Deirdre's gate. 

"The Squire is away, too, I hear. No, thanks, I 
won't come in. I'm on my way to Brewer's farm. What 
was I saying? Ah, yes — Mesurier — ^have you any idea 
of the day he comes back?" 

"On Monday or Tuesday, Hyacinth thinks." She 
lifted the latch of the door as she spoke. "Do have 
a cup of tea first — it's aH ready." She smiled at him. 
For a moment he wavered, then shook his head. 

"Honestly, I haven't time. I have to be home for a 
vestry meetmg after my business with Tom Brewer." 

A voice came out of the shadowy hall. 



AUTUMN floi 

"Is that Gage, resisting temptation?" 

To Deirdre's astonishment, Pontef ract appeared on the 
threshold. 

"Fm not burgling," he explained as he shook hands 
with his hostess. "It's Day's fault — she asked me to 
stay and said you'd be sorry to have missed me ! This 
bucked me up so tremendously I've been sitting here 
for twenty minutes reading a Harrod's catalogue. The 
pictures are mojst absorbing! I've learnt such a lot about 
woman's dress — can't thiiSc where you put it away — ^it 
must be like those Chinese puzzles, one box inside an- 
other! Hope you don't mind my taking possession of 
Four Comers in your absence ?" 

"I shall count the silver," said Deirdre, laughing. 

The Rector glanced from one to the other, and ap- 
parently soothed by his scrutiny, indulged in a sympa- 
thetic chuckle. 

"That's right — don't trust him. Hels always up to 
some mischief." Then, more gravely: "And how's 
Mrs. Chris?" His eyes ran over the young man with 
his bronzed face and open smile. "I hear my wife's 
taking your place, pro tern, and that you're in London! 
— ^under press of urgent business." 
' "So I was, until to-day. Then as I had a few hours 
clear I thought I'd run down and see Dawkins. Hot- 
spur's suddenly gone lame — ^my favourite hunter," he 
explained, turning to Mrs. Caradoc. 

"I'm so sorry. Is that the bay with the white 
sock?" 

"Yes" — he nodded — ^"worse luck! Some confotmded 
carelessness. He was sound as a bell when I left home. 
Looks as if he'd strained a sinew." 

For a moment Deirdre felt inclined to tell him of the 
midnight rider. Then caution intervened ; it was really 
no affair of hers. 

"Very annoying," said the Rector. "What are you do- 
ing this evening? Will you share my frugal bachelor 
meal?" 

"Thanks, but I'm bound to get back to the Grange — 
the vet's coming after dinner. Otherwise I'd have 
jumped at it Like old times." His face saddened. For 



202 AUTUMN 

a moment his eyes met the Rector's with an almost 
challenging note of affection. 

Gage checked a sudden sigh. 

"Wish you could! Well, I must be off. Au revoir, 
Mrs Caradoc. Look after this prodigal son, home from 
the husks of Dieppe !" 

"I can offer a fatted goat/' said Deirdre. "I'm afraid 
Four Comers won't run to a calf.'' 

The Rector laughed, almost boyishly. 

"I don't expect he'd notice the difference — ^not if he 
were dining with you !" And, as if aware of his temerity, 
lifted his dusty clerical hat and was off before she found 
a reply. ' 

"Good old Gage!" said Pontefract. 

"Yes, he's a dear." She closed the door. "Al- 
ways slaving for other people." She glanced up at 

her visitor. "I can't think why " And stopped 

abruptly. 

"Neither can I," he smiled back, guessing that the un- 
spoken words referred to the rector's unsuitable mar- 
riage. "Lord ! — the mistakes one makes in life." 

He dropped heavily into a chair, stretching his long 
legs stiffly. 

** You're quite sure I'm not in the way? It was rathet 
cool my waiting for you, but I thought I'd just like to 
see you. This cottage always seems to me an oasis in 
the midst of the desert." 

"Fm very glad. I was feeling lonely." 

He nodded his head. 

"I expect you do — sometimes. It's a quiet place. If 
it weren't for the Mesuriers I doubt if I could stick it 
myself. Rollo's away?" His voice was abrupt. 

"Yes, a duty visit to town. But Hyacinth is at the 
Hall. Have you seen her ?" 

"No." He stooped down and tucked a boot-lace into 
place. "I must try and run in early to-morrow before I 
catch the express to town." 

"Can't you stay over Sunday? The glass is going up 
with a run, and if the weather proved kind we might all 
three have a picnic somewhere." 

"Very tempting; but, like Gage, my duty is spelt with 



AUTUMN 203 



a big D. A very big one — ^plus a dash ! It includes the 
night boat to Dieppe." ^ 

Day appeared with the tea. Deirdre made a sign to 
check her. 

"You'd rather have a whiskey and soda, wouldn't 
you?" she asked Chris. 

"No, thanks. I like tea — your tea — ^it's properly 
brewed." 

He gave Day a sidelong look out of his mischievous 
hazel eyes, and received a discreet little smile in return. 

"And buttered toast !" he observed with gusto. "I say, 
will you let me Four Comers with all it contains? I'm 
coveting! Your house, and your goat, and your toast, 
and your maid." Day vanished to enjoy her stifled 
laughter in the pantry. 

"Honestly," he ran on, "it's just what I should like 
myself — an awfully cosy little place. I'm not in love 
with the Grange. It's so horribly new and over-fur- 
nished. Whilst this " His eyes wandered about and 

the smile died out of them. "Have you ever been to my 
old home, now the 'country seat' of Byng, M.P.^' 

Faint scorn was in his voice, beneath which he masked 
regret. 

Deirdre shook her head as she poured him out a 
steaming cup of the fragrant China tea — one of her new 
luxuries. 

"That honour is not for me," she laughed rather mis- 
chievously. "But I've often seen it driving past and 
confess to peeping through the hedge. It's a dear old 
house. I can understand how fond of it you must have 
been." 

"Not a bad place." The words were careless, but 
Deirdre was not deceived. "As a boy I had some good 
times there. Of course the rectory was my home, but 
we used to go to my grandfather in turn in the holidays. 
He kept a couple of ponies for us. The people round 
were jolly, too. Now everything is changed, all the old 
folks dead — or broke! — ^and their places sold to new- 
comers. Quite a different class of people, with none of 
the old friendliness." 

"It's the same everywhere, I think." She handed him 



204 AUTUMN 



the buttered toast "Put it by you and help yourself. 
Here's anchovy-paste — it makes it nicer." 

"Jove ! Fm jolly glad I waited. How one enjoys an 
English tea after the 'make-belief abroad I" He reverted 
to the earlier subject 

"Weavers is not the place it was. Kilby is slowly 
crawling out with trams and villas until one day we 
shall w^e up to find we're a suburb ! By then there'll be 
few of the old crowd left I hear that the Cardines' 
place is to let" 

"Yes, a pity. She seemed so nice. Hyacinth took me 
over there. But no one wants to live for long in the 
same house now. It's a restless age. I think, too, motor- 
ing's made a difference. You're not so dependent on 
your neighbours. The circle is wider, and so, in a sense, 
you never get so intimate and the old country life is 
altered. There's less simple hospitality — of dropping in 
uninvited." 

Pontefract nodded. 

"Too much show. I'd like myself to live in a cottage 
with plenty of grounds, but keep open house for my 
friends. Meg is quite opposed to this. She revels in 
long invitations and all the fuss of preparation and then 
everything A-i. My father-in-law was just the same. 
It's in the blood." His face clouded. 

"You've just made me realize that there's no cake for 
tea to-day." Deirdre smiled. 

"Oh, damn the cake I" said Pontefract Their eyes 
met and they both laughed. 

Then he apologized. 

"Sorry! The word slipped out Good biz old Gage 
has gone." 

"I'll forgive you — this time. I don't expect these an- 
cient walls are over-shocked. More tea?" She rdilled 
his cup. 

"Not they!" Pontefract laughed. "I've spent some 
cheery evenings here. I shouldn't mind living at Four 
Corners. Which reminds me" — he drew out a pocket- 
book — ^"what do you think of this French chateau?" 

He handed over a snapshot, which Deirdre recognised 
at once. 



AUTUMN 205 

''The 'Villa Nicolette'r she nodded. "Fve seen it be- 
fore. It looks charming. Hyacinth was in love with it. 
She showed it to me, among others." 

"Yes, I sent the child some photos." He leaned side- 
ways and pointed out the main features eagerly. "It's 
above the road on the side of the hill. There's a wide 
verandah running round with roses and clumps of helio- 
trope. Only six rooms, counting the kitchen, but it's 
bright and airy and awfully snug. I'm glad vou like 

it " He hesitated. "Fact is, I've been and bought 

it" 

"Not really?" She looked surprised. 

"Yes. You see, for a long time I've been wanting a 
little pied-a-terre, somewhere right out of Weavers." 

Deirdre understood. Here was another quiet haven 
when life became too burdensome in the company of an 
alien spirit. 

"Of your very own," she said softly. 

"Exactly." His glance kindled. "I can run over there 
now and then with a pal and rough it — ^a picnic life, 
no pomp or ceremony ! I love the sea, so the crossing's 
nothing and there's always Dieppe if it gpts too dull. 
By the way" — ^he fidgeted for a moment — ^"it's a secret 
at present — for various reasons. I haven't told my 
wife about it. She'd want to go over and ferret round 
and put it all in apple-pie order ! And I like it as it is. 
I've been furnishing it on the sly ; plainly, you know, but 
my own idea. So perhaps you'd keep it to yourself." 

"Of course." Her voice was cordial. "I can s)rmpa- 
thize thoroughly. A man wants a den to himself. I 
feel the same about Four Comers. One makes one's own 
atmosphere, without — ^well-meant interference!" 

"That's it." He nodded his head. "Beside3, it's bet- 
ter not to talk. Not everyone understands. It's a rum 
world — so suspicious." 

"You're right." Her voice was a shade bitter. Her 
thoughts flew back to Mrs. Thursby and her attitude 
towards the Squire. 

"If people would lead their own lives and allow their 
neighbours to do the same without endless speculation 
there wouldn't be half so much trouble. TV«:^ ^t^w*. 



2o6 AUTUMN 

faith in their own behaviour, but refuse to give it to 
those around them. One ought to believe in people." 
The words came out vehemently. 

Pontefract stared at her. Then he gave an odd laugh. 

"They'd get a few knocks, though. It's not every one 
who deserves such implicit trust in this world. We're 
only human at the best ! Circumstance and environment 
play rum tricks in a man's life." A shadow fell across 
his face. He went on thoughtfully, as if he were Jalking 
to himself: "One starts out to conquer the world so 
jolly sure of oneself and then something goes wrong, 
and the whole point of view's changed. A man must 
have some safety-valve — if it's only hunting, or golf, or 
drink! You can't be pinned down to narrow rules and 
regulations all day long. 

"Sometimes I think I shall clear out — get off to the 
Colonies — start afresh. But Lord knows if I'd make 
any better job of it !" 

He ended on a note of despair. Deirdre, divining 
much, felt a sudden wave of pity. 

She leaned forward impulsively. 

"I know — it's frightfully hard. One feels walled-in 
with no way out. But that's where our vision's clouded. 
There's almost always a road of escape. It will come to 
you — suddenly. But it's awfully difficult to be patient" 
— she hesitated, then faced it boldly — "and bear the idio- 
sjmcrasies of people with whom one is rarely in touch. 
I've been hopeless myself at times, and then a way was 
opened out, and I took it" — ^hcr voice dropped a tone — 
"I think these things are all arranged." 

Pontefract through narrowed lids was watching her 
face, with its changing moods. 

"By Providence ?" The words jarred with their under- 
current of cynicism. 

Deirdre flushed, but recovered herself. 

"Yes." It cost her an effort to say it 

The man looked suddenly ashamed. 

"Perhaps you're right. I don't know. I think it's been 
mostly your own pluck." 

He rose to his feet, as he spoke, with a quick glance 
Bt the clock. 



AUTUMN 207 

"But I shan't forget your kindness to me. I'm a bit 
of a rotter, but all the same I know a good woman when 
I see one — and a good friend. You're both !" He held 
out his hand, slightly confused. 

Deirdre did not answer him, but her serious eyes re- 
vealed her thoughts. He looked deep into them for a 
second, then his own fell before them. 

"Good-bye. I'll come again, on my return, if I may?" 
He tried to throw a shade of lightness into his voice: 
"And pay toll ! I can't pass the Turnpike Lodge without 
seeing the Turnpike Lady! Can I bring you anything 
from Dieppe?" 

"Yes," she smiled up at him, "I'd like a packet of post- 
cards, please. The brighter the better — ^tfiey're not for 
myself, but for Day, who rejoices in an album. My 
friends all offer contributions." 

"She shall have the best the place provides, with 
Reckitt skies and a pea-green sea." He paused in the 
doorway, mischievous. "There are postcards at 
Dieppe. . . ." 

"No ! You are not to corrupt my maid. Nothing too 
'French' will pass the Censor!" 

"Ha, ha !" his laugh rang out. "You'd better open the 
post-bag yourself ! Won't it be a shock for Weavers ?" 

And with this he departed, chuckling. 



CHAPTER XIX 

"The groom from the Hall, mtun, has brought this." 
Day handed her mistress a note. "He doesn't loiow if 
there's an answer.*' 

Deirdre opened the envelope and read the contents 
with a slight frown. 

"No; he can go. It's from Miss Mesurier. She isn't 
coming to supper to-night — a bad headache — ^what a pity ! 
I thought she looked pale in church this morning." 

"Yes'm. Will you want the cutlets ?" 

"No, just the soup and salad. See that Wade takes 
back those baskets and I think, perhaps, I'll scribble a 
line." 

She sat dowii, wrote a few words of sympathy and 
r^^et, and gave it to Day, whose face reflected her own 
obvious disappointment. 

"It can't be helped I" She smiled at the maid. "I ex- 
pect it's the thunder in the air." 

For the weather had changed, sultry and dry, like the 
ghost of the Summer stealing back, heavy-browed and 
winged with depression, heralding an electric storm. 

Deirdre, conscious of the heat, followed Day down 
the stairs, turning instinctively to the garden where the 
shadows were banning to lengthen. 

As she passed through the hall she^ gathered up a vol- 
ume of verse which had reached her by post the day 
before from the Squire. A letter fluttered out from the 
leaves. Unfolding the closely-written sheet she ran once 
more through the opening Imes. 

"Autumn and Henley go well together. Read his 
tribute to The Trees'— 'God's Sentinels.' 

''In air-less London it makes me ache for the woods 
at home — 

" 'Wearing the darkness like the livery 

Of some mysterious and tremendous guild.' 



AUTUMN 209 

"Much beauty is here for you. I wish I were reading 
over your shoulder under that clear, open sky, where 
high above the old church spire 



« 



'The wistful stars . . . Shine like good memories.' 



"Henley is such a virile poet ; I'm sure he will appeal 
to you — to that hint of 'boyishness* wrapped away in the 
folds of your femininity. There was no weakness nor 
compromise in his outlook on life. He saw straight. 
The essential things — faith and courage; and love, that 
will surely survive death. 

"He suffered from poverty and ill-health, but kept his 
mind untainted by them through sheer pluck; first a 
man and then a poet — ^not vice versa! 

"I commend him to you, awaiting your verdict when I 
return on Monday night 

"Meanwhile I'm living at high pressure, driving 
through the business before me, amazed at the inertia 
of people who live by the sweat of their brow ! Rodin 
should make a masterpiece of the British workman: a 
solid block of marble, suggesting arrested movement 
and a blind need of motive power. I don't wonder that 
our trade slips into foreign hands. There's no scope 
for initiative or any original improvement — just a crass 
content with 'things-as-they-are.* It gives me an un- 
canny dread of some great catastrophe which will tear 
the mask from oflF our eyes. Heaven grant it be not 
too late! 

"By all of which you will realize that my temper is 
getting the best of me! I'm longing for some active 
work in the open air. In fact, I will confess to you that 
it's just as much as I can do to keep my hands off the 
pots of paint that adorn the house in Deanery Street. I 
did steal a piece of putty and amuse myself for a solid 
hour trying to evolve Olga out of that delectable sub- 
stance! It was discovered later on by a duchess of a 
chambermaid in my bedroom at the Coburg, She asked 
coldly if I 'required' it." 

Deirdre smiled. She could picture the scene. 

She folded the letter and put it back, then moved on 



210 AUTUMN 

down the garden to an old bench which flanked the wall 
beside the straggling lavender bushes. 

It was a favourite comer of hers, hidden from the 
lane beyond. Sitting there she faced the orchard, where 
beneath the g^oup of apple trees velvet shadows lay on 
the grass, which was lush and green in contrast to the 
burnt patches in the open. From the little cottage, half- 
screened by the high yew hedge, a thread of smoke rose 
straight and unwavering to the grey and copper hues of 
the sky. Birds twittered restlessly and a bat wheeled 
past, with its shrill high note, still blinded by the light. 

The sound awoke a memory in Deirdre's brain of that 
first evening spent at Weavers, and the walk which had 
led to the Squire's woods ; those enchanted woods where 
Romance still lurked, with the tmsolved mystery of the 
Centaur. 

"I've a great mind to go there to-night after supper," 
she said to herself. "I feel too restless to stay indoors — 
just in the mood for an evening stroll. And there won't 
be many evenings like this." Her thoughts turned 
regretfully to the long happy Summer days of gipsy life 
with the Squire and his daughter. 

She foresaw that Winter must bring in its wake heavy 
spells of loneliness, robbing her of the excuse of picnics 
and gardening with her friends. 

"I think I shall take up a new language — Spanish? 
I'd like to go to Spain. Hyacinth must give me lessons, 
or perhaps . . ." she left the thought unfinished. 

The book lay open on her knee. In an idle mood she 
turned the pa^es, reading a verse here and there, but 
without its clamring her whole attention. Stray inemo- 
ries drifted across the outer edges of her mind : Cousin 
Maddie's warning talks, a pregnant phrase in a letter 
from Mark, announcing his speedy return to town and 
hinting at a "Winter together." 

Pursuing his own line of action Mark slurred over 
the present rupture, "hoped she'd enjoyed her holiday," 
and suggested improvements at the flat — her room re- 
papered, a new carpet 1 

The choice should lie in her own hands. Here he ex- 
pressed his meaning boldly : 



AUTUMN 211 

"Perhaps you would like to run up soon, so that the 
painters could start work?" 

"Never !" Her lips took a firm line, her head went up 
defiantly. "Does he think he can win me back by a 
bribe ? It shows how little he understands." 

She thrust the insulting thought away deliberately. 
"That's all over. I'm going to stay on, as I am, at 
Weavers." 

Then, as her eyes returned to the book, she saw it lay 
open at a page where a poem was scored with a heavy 
line of pencil, inviting her attention. 

Eagerly she read the verses, and, little by little, re- 
sentment ebbed; a f dueling of peace stole over her. It 
was almost as if Mesurier stood by her side, grave and 
thoughtful, and laid a hand upon her shoulder, upholding 
her with his strong friendship. 

"When you are old, and I am passed away — 
Passed, and your face, your golden face, is gray — 
I think, whatever the end, this dream of mine, 
Comforting you, a friendly star will shine 
Down the dim slope where still you stumble and stray. 

''So may it be: that no dead Yesterday, 
No sad-eyed ghost but generous and gay, 
May serve you memories like almighty wine. 

When you are old !" 

She drank it in with a little sigh. 

"Dead Yesterday"? Why, so it was. Past and over, 
inviting burial But what had it led to? A fuller life, 
as Death, in turn, must hold in store ; the soul no longer 
cramped and bound by earthly prejudice and error, but 
free — ^awake, aware at last of power and immortality. 

Again her lips breathed the poem, and paused at the 
words, "a friendly star." 

Out of the darkness had come light — ^the starlight of 
an autumn friendship — pointing the path before her feet. 
She saw the distant goal ahead. 

To be true to her creed — no compromise, no specious 
juggling with love and passion. She would live as her 
own heart dictated, lonely, perhaps, but with self-respect 



212 AUTUMN 

and "memories like almighty wine" should comfort her 
in her old age. 

Then in time she could comfort others — help and con- 
sole. 

Hyacinth rose, slim and sweet, before her mind, on 
the threshold of her womanhood. Deirdre registered a 
vow to be true to the trust which the Squire imposed. 
He had given her his confidence; could she not share 
a part of his burden? 

It added a definite purpose to life, the maternal touch 
that Nature denied. 

Mark had outlived his need of her. He had told her 
so in plain words. He regretted his old bachelor days 
and the burden of supporting her. 

"You can go away — ^and stay away !" The speech was 
branded on her heart. All the years of patient work 
had been thrown awa^. She was stale to nim. "Dead 
Yesterday !" She buned it deep. 

Quick steps came up the path. 

"Supper, mum." Day stood before her. 

"^^l coming." She rose from the narrow bench and 
following up her line of thought, 

"Are you happy here. Day?" she asked. 

"Quite, mum." But the maid's voice lacked its usual 
heartiness. 

Deirdre studied the faithful face. 

"There's something wrong — I'm sure of it. Tell me 
what is troubling you." 

"It's nothing, mum." The big grey eyes warmed with 
sudden gratitude. "Nothing for you to worrit about. 
Your soup will be getting cold, mum." 

"I like it cold this weather." Deidrc laid a hand on 
her arm. "Won't you tell me? Couldn't I help? Is it 
that you miss London?" 

"Lor', no, mum !" Day smiled. Then the shadow fell 
again, and she went on hurriedly. "I'm a bit bothered 
about my sister — the married one near Exeter, mum. I 
had a letter last night. Her little boy is very ill and 
•he's none too strong herself, just now — expecting, mtun, 
the mcMith after next — and with her husband out of work 
it all seems to have come together." 



AUTUMN 213 

"I'm very sorry," said Deirdre. "What's the matter 
with the child r 

"They thinks it's a galloping decline," Day explained, 
"and all from a chill. Such a fine big boy as he were, 
and now, mum, he's nothing but skin and bones, and her 
husband's old gentleman's died — a place where he's been 
for fifteen years as gardener, and it's none too easy to 
get another thereabouts. A married man with five chil- 
dren and his old mother to keep as well, and, of course, 
it's a trouble to my sister " She broke off breath- 
lessly. 

"I'm sure it is. Now, how can we help her?" 

"Well, mum, I was thinking, if you would be so kind 
as to give me my wages — as is due next week — 3. few 
days before, I could send them a trifle." Day coloured. 
"But not if it's putting you about." 

Deirdre smiled. "You shall have them to-night. But 
mayn't I send her something myself?" 

"Thank you, mum ; there's no need." Sensitive pride 
was in the words, and Deirdre nodded, understanding. 

"Very well, just as you like. But one thing I could 
easily do would be to make a few inquiries. The Squire 
is coming back to-morrow and he might know of a va- 
cant place for a gardener among his friends. Would 
you like to have your sister here, near you, if it could 
be managed?" 

They moved on into the house. Day was evidently 
thinking. 

"Well, mum, it's like this : I'm sure it's very kind of 
you, but with relations I always hold they're best to be a 
journey away." 

Mrs. Caradoc checked a smile. 
Perhaps it's wiser," she acquiesced. 
Yes, mum, I'm sure of it. They think more of you 
at a distance. Lottie's all right, mum, in her way, but 
I've never taken to her husband. He's got ideas in his 
head, about his rights and the gentry, and always run- 
ning of them down. It comes, perhaps, from a gift of 
the tongue — folks as have a lot to say don't always 
care how they sez it." 

She pulled out her mistress' chair. "Now, mum, di 






214 AUTUMN 

have your supper. That chicken broth is rather pale, but 
it's strong, mum. It will do you good." 

Deirdre took a spoonful and nodded. 

"It's delicious — ^I know this is your cooking." 

Day beamed back at her. 

"Yes'm. Mrs. Slack was out yesterday, so I got my 
chance." Her voice was tenderly triumphant. 

For Day had mastered the secret of love ; service, that 
gift which comes from the heart — freely offered and 
doubly sweet when appreciated by the loved one. 

"You like to do things for me. Day?" 

The maid's eyes opened wide. 

"Why, yes, mum; that's what I'm here for." 

The simple answer touched her mistress. 

"And I should like to do things for you, but you won^t 
let me." She held out her hand. "Now, Day, just for 
once, mayn't I have my own way and the pleasure of 
helping your family?" 

Day, rather nervously, touched the smooth slender 
fingers. 

"My hands aren't fit, mum — ^with the cooking — but 
I'm sure I'm grateful " She hesitated. 

"Of course you must send it from yourself." Deirdre 
followed up her advantage. "I can understand your 
sister is proud and mightn't care for gifts from stran- 
gers. / shouldn't, in her place. Just go to that right- 
hand drawer. There's a postal order on the top. I got 
it for a bill from town, but that can wait. Tnere's no 
hurry. You have a stamp ? Capital. Now, write a little 
line at once and enclose it. She'll get it some time to- 



morrow." 



But you'll take it from my wages, mum?" Day stood 
her ground firmly. 

"Well, we'll see." Deirdre laughed. "Off you go. I 
want my salad ; and then you can run to the pillar box." 

"You re too good, mum." Reluctantly the maid 
obeyed. "I oughtn't to take it. But I'll tell Lottie it's 
for the child, and not for that Fred — ^to be spent on 
beer!" With a flicker of temper she left the room and 
Deirdre caught her parting jmurmur: "Nothing but an 
empty gas-bag, full o' politics and rubbish !" 



CHAPTER XX 

Summer lightning flickered across the evening sky. Far 
away a storm was brewing in the hills, but over the woods 
peace reigned. A golden moon, like a bright round face, 
stared down at the drowsy earth and was veiled at times 
by drifting clouds, light as gossamer, speeding past. 

The dry leaves crackled beneath her feet as Deirdre 
trod the curving road that followed the wall of the park, 
shadowed by the fine old trees with their mottled burden 
of russet and ochre, where here and there a half-bare 
bough stretched eagerly over the coping like a mighty 
arm which stooped to catch her. 

The fancy framed itself in her mind, and "Not yet T 
she nodded back. "Wait till I get to the heart of the 
wood, then you shall whisper your latest secret!" 

When she came to the painted gate, to her surprise 
she found it ajar. *She passed through eagerly, faintly 
awed by the deep silence that filled the undergrowth like 
a presence. A dry twig snapped tmder her foot; the 
sound seemed magnified into the sharp report of a pistol, 
and a wood pigeon, blundering out from its sleeping 
place, with fls^pping wings, staraed Deirdre for a sec- 
ond. 

But the cool fragrance of the trees lured her on with 
a sense of adventure. The charm of exploring unknown 
ways led her into a narrow track that branched off from 
the main path and was carpeted with the soft dust of 
innumerable fallen beech-leaves. 

"I mustn't get lost," she reflected, smiling, as the 
thought of a night spent in the woods rose to her mind 
and she shivered slightly, half in pleasure, half in fear. 
"But I want to see where this path comes out before I 
turn back and to feel, for a space, absorbed in the silence 
and the peace — what the Squire calls *a bath for the 
soul' !" 

A bramble caught at her fluttering skirt, and she 

315 



2i6 AUTUMN 

paused to extricate herself ; then on again, stepping war- 
ily as a dip in the ground showed a moist patch where a 
tiny brook trickled across the narrow cutting and disap- 
peared into a bed of flowering rush. 

Here the path swerved abruptly, darker than ever. 
Above her head the branches met and interlaced, blot- 
ting out the pale moonlight For a moment Deirdre hesi- 
tated. 

How gloomy it looked ! — ^like the door of a trap. Then 
she braced herself anew, ashamed of her sudden nervous- 
ness. 

But she walked faster, feeling the weight of the for- 
est-roof descend on her and the moist oppression in the 
air laden with sweet aromatic scents. 

At last she came to a turn in the track that wound 
round an elder bush weighted down with its load of 
berries and, as she brushed narrowly past, her breath 
quickened. She felt a cold and clammy touch on her 
neck, where a wet leaf had trailed across it. The wood 
seemed full of creeping fingers! 

Then with relief she realized that the trees ahead 
were thinning fast, laced by narrow shafts of light 

"I'm coming out." She whispered the words to still 
the beating of her heart. She could not have spoken 
them aloud in this dim land of listening trees. And sud- 
denly she began to run, sttunbling over an unseen root 
that tried in vain to trip her up, feeling a bough whip 
her arm, a bramble clutch at her flying skirts, and 
emerged into an open space, bathed in light, whilst over- 
head the ^eat gold moon laughed down at her I 

She blinked in the sudden change from the dark 
and shaded her eyes with her hand. Before her lay 
the long green ride, sloping gently to the lake that lay 
like a magic opal set in the dark splendour of the 
woods. 

She could see midway the sleeping lodge, raised on 
piles above the grass and open on three sides to the air, 
with its low jutting roof of thatch. 

Tired but thankful she sat down on a log that bor- 
dered the narrow path, grateful for the human touch 
that the presence of the lodge aflForded. A lock of hair 



AUTUMN 217 

had escaped from beneath her garden hat in her wild 
flight She fastened it back with shaking fingers and, 
aware of the fact, laughed at herself. 

"How absurd to be such a coward! As if the woods 
could possibly hurt. But they felt just a shade un- 
canny. She shivered at the recollection. 

Slowly the beauty of the scene sank into her conscious- 
ness, soothing her instinctively. 

"What a night! It's like a dream. . . ." Her eyes 
drank in the grassy ride narrowing up to the line of the 
sky in a perspective of silvery green that faded away in- 
distinct into the deep blue of the heavens. 

"How I wish that I could paint it." She began to out- 
line the picture with a swift valuation of light and shade. 
"It only needs Diana now, bare-limbed, with her leashed 
hounds and the moon a crescent " 

She broke off, alert and startled, her ears straining. 

Far away in the covert beyond silence had given place 
to sound; the woods were alive with secret movement: 
a crashing in the undergrowth — something was coming, 
swift and ruthless! She sprang to her feet, her pulses 
beating. 

What could it be? A poacher, perhaps? She tried to 
still her rising fear, but instinctively she sought for 
cover and slipped behind the nearest tree, concealed by 
the trunk, her hands pressed against the bark, cool and 
rough, her eyes anxiously peering rotmd it. 

The noise increased. Now she could see something 
move, indistinct, in the shadows beyond the bar of light ; 
and swiftly into the milky space a dim form leaped and 
stood revealed, as though suddenly turned to stone, 
limbs taut, head thrown up, crowned by a pair of mighty 
antlers. 

Deirdre gave a little gasp. From some subconscious 
region of mind the word "Actaeon" took shape. Was it 
a dream — a passing vision — or a living, breathing, won- 
derful fact? 

The stag stood there, beautiful in its moment of inde- 
cision. She could see the delicate nostrils wide, as 
though with fear, snuflSng the breeze. The moon sil- 
vered the gallant form: the slender limbs su^^estiu^ 



2i8 AUTUMN 

speed, the proudly-carried noble head, with its dark muz- 
zle and wild soft eyes. 

Then, as from the wood behind, some distant sound 
reached its ears, the stag moved forward and swung to 
the left and a further marvel was revealed. 

Three does stole forth, fragile and timid, obeying 
their lord; shadows of love, with no will but his— chil- 
dren of Nature's imperious law. 

Some secret signal passed between them and in a 
flash they were off again, skimming across the moonlit 
space, swift and noiseless as swallows that dip and 
brush the meadows with their wings.' 

The leaves seemed to part at fiieir touch; a faint 
rustle of swung-back boughs succeeded their first reck- 
less plunge and then the wood had swallowed them up 
like a mother who takes her babe to her breast 

Deirdre, with shining eyes, listened and wondered. 

Where had they gone? What mystery of the Autumn 
night had driven them forth from their hidden lair, 
where they lay sleeping in the bracken? 

The answer was borne to her by the breeze. For the 
covert ahead was still full of disturbance — htunan this 
time, she conjectured. Some one was plunging through 
the trees, forcing a way through the lower tangle, tram- 
pling, rending, hunting the deer! 

Holding her breath she stood there, waiting, trying to 
localize the sound. Now the intruder was comine this 
way. She heard the dry twigs snap and crackle, heavy 
feet spuming the brambles, and then a man struggled 
out of the leafy mass into the open. 

A little cry broke from her lips. 

For bare-headed, ashen-faced, the Squire stood there, 
as though dazed, and swept a hand across his ^es, 
blinded m the sudden light. 

No coat covered' him and his flannel shirt was ripped 
across at the shoulder, in a jagged rent, the bare flesh 
gleaming through; his shoes were deep in sticky clay 
and he looked in the last stage of' exnaustion, wholly 
distraught, driven forward by some wild, impelling 
force. 

Even as she realized this he started again at a weary 



AUTUMN 219 

trot to cross the green belt of grass, heading straight 
for the narrow path by which she had come, unaware 
of her presence. 

The spell that held her motionless snapped. Here was 
trouble so evident that all her heart rose in pity, stilling 
the tremor of her nerves. Out she stepped from her 
hiding-place. 

She saw him check and his head go up, flung back 
inquiringly. It reminded her of the startled stag. 

Then he cried her name aloud poignantly, "Deirdre!" 
and ran towards her, hands outstretched, as a child runs 
to those it loves in the face of some deadly peril. 

"Deirdre — oh, Deirdre!" His arm were round her, 
his head went down helplessly upon her breast; she 
could hear the hard dry sobs that mark the breaking 
point of control in a strong man's last defences. 

"Hush . . . hush." She held him close, smoothing 
the dark and ruffled hair, utterly self-forgetful now — 
convention thrown to the winds of heaven. '*Oh, my 
dear — my poor Rollo! — ^what is wrong with you? 
Won't you tell me?" 

But still he clung to her, past speech. She could feel 
him shudder, fighting — tense — ^to mastet his overpower- 
ing distress. Where the torn shirt fell away from his 
shoulder the thorns had pierced the flesh and a smear 
of blood had dried upon it. Subconsciously she noted 
this. It added to her love and pity. 

"Rollo?" Her voice broke on the word, and as if 
this touched some secret chord in his being, he shifted 
his head slightly so that his eyes, full of pain, could 
meet her own downward glance. A sudden wave of te- 
lepathy swept across her. She guessed the truth. 

"Not — Hyacinth ?" She read the reply on his drawn 
and haggard face. "Dead?" Her lips shaped the 
word. 

"No— worse!" the whisper reached her. 

She started at this, horrified. Vague conjectures 
overwhelmed her, in which like a phantom the old 
dread of the riderless horse and that glimpse of ro- 
mance in the silent woods rose supreme. 

"Never!" Her loyalty thrust it aside. 



220 AUTUMN 

The Squire relapsed into his old attitude, his eyes hid- 
den, blotting out some picture that still hatmted him. 

"Yes — failed me"— broken speech succeeded the heavy 
spell of silence — "soul-less — her mother over again!"* 

"Hush, hush " She held him close as a nurse 

shields a frightened child. 

Above them a cool rising wind stirred the leaves with 
a fluttering sigh. The forest was round them, hem- 
ming them in — ^a magic circle of age and strength. It 
seemed to Deirdre's quickened sense that the great trees 
looked down, pitiful, at these frail mortals with their 
fugitive span of existence — ^their pigmy problems and 
endless fears and desires and barren questionings. 

At last Rollo broke the spelL 

"I saw them — ^with my own eyes — Hyacinth and Pon- 
tefract." 

His speech, once loosened, the words poured out in 
staccato phrases, bitter, hopeless. The whole story of 
deception seemed like the memory of some dream that 
centred roimd a monstrous figure in Deirdre's brain — 
that of a centaur. 

"Chris — ^my own intimate friend! Fool — blind fool 
that I've been ! No wonder she was happy at Weavers. 
God knows when it began. I never areamed — such 
treachery. Eulalie, then Hyacinth! — ^my life work. I 
trusted her." 

On went the tragic voice: "Never, never trust a 
woman! They're not worth it; there's something 
wrong — ^missing. Is it the mainspring of truth? — 2l 
sense of justice? God knows. The child loved me, in 
her way. Fear? No, impossible! I've never hurt her 
in my life. Infatuation? — feminine lust — ^the ruthless- 
ness of the search for a mate. . . ." 

"Don't I" Deirdre, white to tfie lips, shrank back and 
away from him. "We're not like that — ^not all of us. 
It isn't true. It's ... an insult!" 

Startled, he came to his senses. 

"Ah, forgive me !" He caught at her hands implor- 
ingly. "I must be mad— God knows what I'm saying! 
Wounding you, of all people! Deirdre"— he gazed at 
her with a deep and wistful tenderness— "don't turn 



AUTUMN 221 

from me. I love you so, I couldn't bear it — not now! 
Fve been tramping the woods for hours on end. I 
didn't dare speak to them. I should have killed Ponte- 
fract! Perhaps Hyacinth as well. And then when my 
brain seemed on fire you came — like a heavenly vision ! 
— laid cool hands upon my head — sheltered me on your 
perfect breast. My dear — my dear . . . what you've 
been to mel" He saw the tears well up in her eyes. 
Into her face came the puzzled look of a child who sifts 
right from wrong, laboriously seeking the truth. 

"You know I love you?" He held her now at arms' 
length hungrily, reading her thoughts with his sure in- 
stinct. "It can't hurt you, Deirdre. I'd never let you 
hurt yourself, or risk a single high ideal. For I love 
your soul — the essence of you. I've not a base thought 
about you! If you'd been free I'd have made you my 
wife; one in body as in spirit. But now, all that I dare 
ask — crumbs from the rich man's table. A perfect 
friendship— without fear — or shame, or any unhallowed 
thing." 

His eyes shone with a deep light. "Do you under- 
stand? Will you trust me?" 

"Yes." She" caught her breath on the word. 
"Only . . /' 

"Well?" he urged her gently. "Don't be afraid of 
hurting me. Tell me all your trouble, sweet." 

"It's just this: Is it tight — fair to you — ^to take all 
and give . . . nothing in return?" The colour flamed 
up into her face. "I'm married, RoUo. I'm not 
happy, but that's no excuse for breaking vows ! Lonely 
— God knows how lonely! And — ^yes, I'll confess, hun- 
gry for love. To feel I've a comer in the world where 
one soul needs me and imderstands. But I can't blot out 
all the past aiid bury those 'dead yesterdays.' I can give 
you friendship with both my hands. But love ? No, it's 
against my creed I" 

For a moment she paused, fighting down a sharp and 
overwhelming temptation. 

"It means misery ahead, self-reproach, broken pride. 
And, since you love me, is it fair? Won't it be worse 
for you in the end?" 



222 AUTUMN 



"And what is the end?" A faint smile curved the 
tired lines of his mouth. ''Death for us all, an inter- 
val, long or short, and a new life. It's only the flesh 
that's weak, my dear, the world's desire — ^the call of 
the body — 3, minor claim before the spirit! And since 
denial but adds to strength — ^the soul's strength — why 
should we fear? The joy and blessing of knowing you, 
of feeling in touch with a fellow-being, the consolation 
of your friendship— surely we stand on equal terms? 
Out of the shipwreck of my life you rise up, embodying 
Hope, offering all that I dare to ask — spiritual compan- 
ionship." 

He heard her give a little sob. 

"Yes, yes, you can claim that ... I think there 
has always been a link '* Her words came out inco- 
herently. "You stand apart : the only man — the only one 
who has come quite close: my own ideals— clean and 
true. And who understands." A tear ran down and fell 
between them on the grass. "If I can help, can be of use 
— for love is service, after all — lighten your burden, 
share it, dear, I will, Rollo. I promise you. 

"Ah !" His hands fell away from her quivering shoul- 
ders; he stepped back. She guessed the effort that it 
cost him — the stem control he laid on himself. No close 
embrace could have told her more. It was the very es- 
sence of love. After a minute he found his voice. 

"Then that's settled," he said gently. "Wonderful!" 
His lips twisted with a hint of the old puckish smile. 
"The mystery of 'compensation,' that balance of the un- 
seen force which holds this crooked world together." His 
head went up with a free gesture. "I'm ashamed of my- 
self — my lack of faith — all my philosophy wiped out by 
a twisted thread in my handiwork!" 

She saw that his mood was changing fast, his volatile 
temperament responding to the reaction from the strain. 
She did not misjudge his attitude. This was the man: 
so keenly alive that his brain sought ever a way of es- 
cape from the burden of grief that threatened his 
heart. 

He went on forcibly. "As if one could ever succeed 
in the end without failures to spur one forward. Now — 



AUTUMN 223 

with you and your help and instinct — I'll unravel the 
knot and start afresh." 

"Yes" — she looked up eagerly — "I think I can be of 
use, if it's only on account of my sex. A woman under- 
stands a woman. But Hyacinth is still a child — in many 
ways. It's not too late. I should like to think it all 
through quietly. Will you take me home ? Day will be 
getting so anxious. We can talk as we go along. And 
perhaps you could come and see me to-morrow, early?" 

The Squire actually laughed. 

"I'll come to breakfast, if I may!" They turned and 
set out down the glade side by side, keeping step, and he 
went on evolving his plan. **I shall sleep here in the 
woods. Nobody knows I'm back in Weavers. I shall 
make an official appearance to-morrow and send to the 
station for my luggage, about twelve o'clock, I think. 
That will give us time for a chat!" He slipped a hand 
through her arm. "Look out for rabbit holes ; the grass 
here is full of them. Why, you're only in slippers, dear I 
Now, isn't that feminine perversity?" 

"I didn't mean to come so far, but I felt a hankering 
for 
way, 

She told him of her evening's adventure, glad to draw 
his mind away for a space from his heavy worries, feel- 
ing the old happy charm of the quick thought that met 
her own, challenged it or sympathized, and his interest in 
all her doings. 

They emerged at last on the curving track beneath the 
long line of wall, and the "sentinel tree" beside the gate 
recalled a fact to Deirdre. 

"I shall not tell him yet," she decided, "about the 
horse I found tethered there. To think it was Hyacinth 
all the time !" Her face shadowed at the thought. "And 
Chris — the centaur. . . ." 

The Squire's voice broke the thread of her self-com- 
muning. 

"I came across a little volume of modem verse the other 
day with one perfect woodland scene. I wish I could re- 
member half. It's a long poem" — he paused to think — 
"there's only the ending that's still in my mind. It's 



the woods, and was punished by nearly losing my 
', until I stumbled on to the ride. 



224 AUTUMN 

something like this." His brows were knit in the effort 
of memory. 

Then in his deep and rhythmical voice he b^[an to 
quote lovingly from Wilfred Thorley's "Dead Dryad": 

"She will train no more on the slender trellis 
The vine to cling nor the rose to climb, 
The red-lipped rosebuds, whose holy smell is 
As kisses crushed on the mouth of Time 
To ransom Beauty. Her skin sublime 
Was tameless love of the world she filled. 
With lips alert for life's brimming chalice 
Or taut with grief for the wine she spilled. 

"She will fly no more from the rampant legions 
Of centaurs ranked, nor the lewd faun's lure ; 
Nor her soft mouth pant in the pathless regions 
Where life is safe and where love is sure ; 
Nor twine the reed with her fingers pure; 
Nor draw warm milk from the wild goat's teat 
And happy I were my fate to follow 
And lay my head on her dear dead feet !" 

He glanced sideways at Deirdre's face, satisfied by 
her warm silence. 



CHAPTER XXI 

Deirdre stood in the tower-room gazing out of the cor- 
ner window. Now and again she would glance at the 
clock anxiously; then her eyes would turn to the nar- 
row lane pa3t Brewer's Farm, where the thinning trees 
afforded a vista beyond between bronzed leaves and 
sombre branches. 

Where was the Squire? What had happened? She 
had breakfasted an hour since, weary of waiting for the 
guest, and now, as the hands crept slowly round on the 
brass dial, every tick of the deep-swung pendultun 
seemed to hold a note of disaster. 

Sleep had deserted her through the night. Under the 
stimulus of excitement her brain had worked with that 
razor-like edge of keenness which follows overwrought 
nerves. Scene after scene passed before her. In vain 
she had tried to analyse the part she had played in them 
herself and her own feelings towards Mesurier. 

A stray phrase of Mrs. Thursby's haunted her per- 
sistently. 

"You can't have a woman balanced between a husband 
and a would-be lover!" 

Too honest to evade the issue and supplement the 
word by "friend," Deirdre had stared blankly into the 
darkness, wondering. . . . 

But since Mark had emphasised openly his desire to 
be free Here she paused, checked again by an in- 
sidious throb of conscience. 

Had he ? Was it merely a phase of uncontrolled and 
childish temper? Why did he still seek her out — ur- 
gently hint at her return? 

What a puzzle life was! 

Did he — could he — love her still? Or was it the out- 
come of a man's instinctive dislike for a public scandal, 
mixed with a sentiment of discomfort caused by the ab- 
sence of the mistress to control the domestic machinery? 

335 



226 AUTUMN 

And what about her own heart? Where did it lie? 
In the dark she flushed. The memory of that moonlit 
glade; of the Squire, broken, in her arms: the perilous 
sweetness of his words, the gift of love he had offered 
her, above all the swift response that had risen in her 
own breast and bridged the gulf of loneliness — swept 
back like a revelation. 

Was this love — ^an Autumn passion? The last revolt 
of her womanhood ? 

It poured over her again — ^the wonder and secret exul- 
tation — ^with a force which almost frightened her as she 
stood staring down the lane. 

"It's more than friendship." She whispered the 
words. "But I can't analyse it yet. I daren't ! I don't 
believe it's wrong — ^not on the lines that he proposed. 
And it's heavenly to feel wanted, a comfort to a human 
being, to be in touch mentally — ^'spiritual companion- 
ship.' " 

She pressed her hands to her hot cheeks and again 
her thoughts turned to Mark. For the first time for 
many months she could study his conduct without ran- 
cour. For her pride, broken by neglect, had returned to 
her whole through a man's respect. 

An almost maternal solicitude had replaced the old 
wifely instinct. Mark seemed to her like some thwarted 
child whose own waywardness marred his life; at the 
mercy of his gusts of temper, seeking to cast the blame 
on others. 

Her intimate sense of failure faded. No mortal 
woman could make him happy — contented for long! It 
was his nature; claiming all, yet giving nothing. Like 
the proverbial Irishman he did not know for what he 
sought, yet could not be soothed until he got it ! Ever a 
materialist, he lived for the moment's fleeting pleasure, 
and, with few resources in himself, was dogged by the 
phantom, satiety. Perhaps now he needed her from the 
very fact that she had left him — was out of reach, unat- 
tainable! It spurred anew his jaded senses. 

She shivered as though a cold wind had blown across 
the open country. 

Far away, over the hill came the rasping note of a 



AUTUMN 227 

motor horn. She leaned out through the narrow case- 
ment, listening. Was that Mesurier's car? 

Below her a playful, eddying breeze blew the leaves 
into a whirlwind — round and around, a breathless dance 
— at the junction of the four roads. 

Then, as her eyes swept the slope, she saw a streak 
of yellow gleam and the sunlight flash on metal fit- 
tings. 

On came the powerful car, swift and noiseless, spum- 
ing up behind it a cloud of silver dust. It was steered 
by the Squire himself. It slackened speed beneath her 
window. Mesurier glanced up and waved, his face seri- 
ous but composed. She heard the heavy brakes grind, 
and ran downstairs to open the door. 

"Well?" He surged through the opening. "Did you 
think me lost?" He clasped her hand. "I'm awfully 
sorry, Deirdre, but I couldn't help it. I'll explain. 
First, though, how are you? How did you sleep?' He 
studied her face. 

"Pretty well," she smiled back. "I was getting rather 
worried about you." 

"I know." He drew a chair forward. "Sit there, 
where I can -see you. How sweet you look, and cool 
and fresh — manna in the wilderness!" 

"But what's happened?" Her colour rose under his 
tender scrutiny. "I thought you were coming here to 
breakfast." 

"So I was — worse luck! I mean," he smiled, "to be 
cheated like this. A case of the 'plans of mice and 
men.' Hyacinth came down to bathe and caught me. 
I hadn't thought of that." 

"Nor I— this weather!" She stared at him. "Oh, 
Rollo, what a pity !" 

"I don't know. It had to be, sponer or later. I'm 
glad now that I've got it over. Of course I cleared the 
ground at once. I don't believe in evading issues. We 
fought it out then and there." 

"How did she take it?" Her voice was tense. 

"Quite calmly, to my surprise. Honestly, too, God 
be praised ! She bowled me over from the start by say- 
ing she 'was glad I knew' ! I never realised hefQte hxV4i 



228 AUTUMN 

an amazing child it was ! — the mixture of innocence and 
folly, ignorance and trained logic. 

"But she wouldn't admit that it was wrong. She dis- 
misses that as 'conventional.' Her point of view is: 
she loves Chris and he loves her and they're both happy ! 
And since nobody else is hurt (according to her) it's 
pure gain. 

"She quoted my own words against me with deadly 
precision" — he smiled grimly — ^"my theory that the hap- 
piness of the individual brightens the world. Marriage 
holds no appeal to her — they're 'superior to legal bonds' 
— so she blots out that phantom wife with a hearty dis- 
like for the tax on Chris ! She seems to believe that this 
state of things can exist unto eternity: stolen meetings, 
and lovers' notes hidden in holes in the trees ! She said 
with a perfectly charming air of indifference that she 
realised we were 'not at all like other people' — she and 
I — 'a race apart' That we made our own laws and 
acted on them, undeterred by convention. I countered 
here by asking her, if this were true, why wasn't I 
told?" 

"Well?" Deirdre leaned across the narrow table, her 
face eager. 

"My dear, she floored me utterly! Slipped an arm 
around my neck and said in her most caressing voice, 
'I was so afraid that you'd be jealous'! 

"What stunned me in it was the truth. I have been 
jealous — horribly! To think that a casual beggar like 
Chris could steal my child away from me, when for all 
these years I'd been — well, more than a parent — ^her 
dearest pal. Quite apart from a question of ethics it 
•stung my pride. I'll admit it. It's such damned imper- 
tinence !" 

Deirdre smiled. The Squire looked so boyishly 
ashamed of himself, yet aggressive, too. He went on 
before she could ask a further question : 

"I tried to point out logically how impossible the 
whole thing was. Hyacinth sat there and smiled and 
dried her hair in the sunshine. We'd met in the middle 
of the lake — s, most unlucky contretemps. I heard a 
splash and came swimming back round the island just 



AUTUMN 229 

in time to see her come up from her first dive. There 
we were, facing each other. You can't be dignified out 
of your depths!" 

He laughed, caught by the humour of it, to Deirdre's 
secret surprise, and, reading her thought, steadied his 
face. "I can't help it — the relief! Don't you under- 
stand, my dear? She's innocent — such a child still — 
just a victim of Romance! 

"Of course it's highly perilous, this playing with fire, 
but not so black a disaster as it might have been; cer- 
tainly not too late to save her. Time and absence may 
work marvels; fresh scenes, new faces. The slightly 
banal attractions of Chris must stand the test of com- 
parison. Other men— other methods. 

"It wrecks my theory — entirely." He seemed now to 
be thinking aloud rather than addressing her. "This iso- 
lation was all wrong. Youth cries aloud to youth. Na- 
ture pulls the hidden strings — sex-attraction, the mating 
instinct. 

"I must get her away out of Weavers — into a totally 
different life. Ay de mi! It will be a wrench — that 
closed-in house in Deanery Street." 

He raised his head with a little start as though he 
faced the practical needs. 

"I'm going to make her a gift of it. It would have 
been hers after my death. But I think if she's mistress 
of it now it will add to her sense of dignity. It's a 
lucky thing it's almost ready — ^a new interest in life. 
She can hunt about in the old shops and replace most 
of the modem sticks. And then, of course, she must 
entertain, go to dances, be presented. Won't Louisa be 
delighted?" His mouth curled in disgust. "She'll think 
I've taken her advice and rub it in each time we 
meet !" 

His thoughts reverted to the cause for this upheaval 
in his life. 

"I've not had it out with Chris. I motored over, 
tried to catch him, but he'd gone to town by the early 
train. That's why I was so late. I guessed somehow 
you'd understand." She nodded her head and he went 
on: 



230 AUTUMN 

"It means a journey to Dieppe. It's no use my 
writinp^ letters — with the chance of 'our dear Mrs. Chris' 
steaming them open. I must see him." 

"Yes." Deirdre's face was grave. "It would be fatal 
— ^any scandal. For Hyacinth's sake, especially. Be- 
sides, you must stop this at the source. Mr. Ponte- 

fract " She paused, biting her lip. "I won't say it. 

But there's no earthly excuse for him. He doesn't suf- 
fer from — innocence !" 

Mesurier's firm mouth hardened. 

"Not exactly." His voice was grim. 

"Did you make her promise not to see him?" 

"No. I don't believe in a vow extorted under undue 
pressure. I told her that I trusted her. It's always been 
my way with the child. And that if she loved me she 
would try and meet my wishes for a time. We're still 
comrades, thank God ! But I did b^ her not to write — 
for her own sake — too dangerous. To my surprise she 
promised this. She was really awfully sweet to me — 
tempered the wind to the shorn sheep." His puckish 
smile flickered out. "I could see she rather pitied me 
for my hidden streak of respectability; became moth- 
erly, in fact, stroked my head and said, 'Poor RoUo'! 
Am I really weak? I'm wondering." 

"A little." Deirdre dared the answer. "But you un- 
derstand Hyacinth. And I know she's truly devoted to 
you." 

A short silence fell between them. The Squire was 
playing with a flower in the blue bowl on the table, ab- 
sently r^earranging it. He seemed to be questioning him- 
self. 

Deirdre watched him thoughtfully, her own face a 
shade wistful. 

"So you're both going to desert Weavers? How 
empty the place will seem without you!" 

^ Her dream had been shattered in the night — the guar- 
dianship of the rirl she loved and the old happy gipsy 
life. Flown with the Summer 1 Now cold wmds and 
empty days lay before her: her one true "friend" 
snatched away ; this time she used the word firmly, feel- 
ing that love was nol lot her. 



AUTUMN 231 

Mesurier twisted in his chair. 

"I don't know — I'm torn asunder. It lies a good deal 
in your hands." 

"How?" Her voice was indistinct. 

The Squire bent across the table. 

"Such little hands! 'Ladies' fingers' — ^you know that 
perfect little flower?" He took them gently in his own 
and she did not resist. She felt too hopeless. He went 
on, under his breath. 

"And yet — tbey hold my whole life. Deirdre, are 
you going to help me? Dare I ask such a sacrifice?" 

A glimmer of his meaning reached her. 

"You mean," she stammered, "with Hyacinth? . . . 
Not in town?" 

He nodded his head. 

A sudden revulsion of feeling shook her. 

"And leave Weavers — Four Comers? Go back — to 
the old life?" 

"Neverf he broke in vigorously. "A new one, for a 
short time, with Hyacinth — ^nothing more. To watch 
over her first steps — play the part of elder sister." 

" 'Mother,' you mean," she smiled faintly. 

"Good God, I wish you werel" His sudden vehe- 
mence startled her. "What a waste — ^a woman like you ! 
Made to hold warm babes to your breast, and to be the 
joy and delight of a man — his whole content and 
hope of Heaven. Deirdre, oh, Deirdre T He caught 
her hand up to his lips, then laid it a moment against 
his brow. "Sorry! Forgive me — I couldn't help it!" 
His voice was husk^. "I won't forget. I'm going to be 
true to our compact. I swear you shall never have 
cause for regret." 

"I know ... I trust you." Her eyes shone. They 
revealed far more than she imagined. For a moment he 
drank deep of the love and faith in their limpid, violet 
depths. 

"Dear eyes." He drew back and straightened his 
shoulders with a sigh. 

"There — I'm a good boy again. Now, Deirdre, let's 
talk sense." 

"Thank you!" She gave a happy laugh that was 



232 AUTUMN 



meant to be light but was tremulous. "Tell me honestly 
what you thit^. Don't try to wrap it up." 

"No, it's this. Could you see your way — for a month 
— six weeks — to come to town and chaperon Hyacinth 
— ^break her into London ways ? By the end of that time 
the Byngs will be back in Charles Street. Parliament 
opens. Of course I shall run up and down myself. I've 
thought it out. I shan't live there; that is, in Deanery 
Street. I shall take bachelor chambers near." 

"But wouldn't people think it strange? That you 
didn't live with your only daughter?" 

The Squire chuckled. 

"Let them think ! It's the lesser of two possible evils. 
And then I'm known to be 'eccentric' Here's the latest 
phase of it! If you want to lead your own life it's a 
great pull, between ourselves, to be considered slightly 
mad. It's a passport to liberty. Apart from you — and, 
of course, you'll guess you've a certain share in this ar- 
rangement — I think it's better for Hyacinth. It will 
show her the faith I have in her. This season in town 
must be for pleasure, in no sense a punishment! Ban- 
ished from Weavers in disgrace? It would drive her 
straight to her lover's arms !" 

"Yes, of course ; you're right there. But I don't know 
— ^it's difficult." She was turning it over in her mind. 
Mark loomed so big in London. Well, it would snap the 
last link. He would have to understand this way. Per- 
haps . • • 

The Squire broke in on her thoughts with unconcealed 
eagerness. 

"I shall see you often. I shan't lose you. It won't 
be the same setting, of course, not the freedom of the 
dear old woods. But we'll steal a few truant hours out 
of the crowd and the breathless air ; motor into the silent 
country, open spaces, and wind-swept hills. Do you 
know the valley of the Thames? It's beautiful. And, 
look here, we'll bicycle in Battersea Park, and I'll row 
you on the Serpentine!" His laugh rang through the 
low-roofed room. "That's the notion ! You and I — out- 
wardly smug citizens — ^meeting at parties: best clothes, 
'lip-talk'— d'you know what I mean? The sort that 



AUTUMN 233 

nev.er comes from the brain, but is bom somewhere be- 
hind the teeth! 

"And then, hey, presto! — the good old car. Goggles, 
cloaks, a villain's disguise, and the real people that we 
are emerging out of our pretences. Why, my dear — ^it's 
a Great Adventure! I hadn't thought of it like that 
Penance? Not a bit of it! The pair of us making fun 
of the world!" 

"And Hyacinth?" she suggested softly. 

"Why, of course, she'll simply love it! We'll get old 
Chris to make a fourth. Good Lord!" He stopped 
aghast, suddenly faced with the cruel fact. 

Words failed Deirdre. She saw him turn abruptly 
away and cross to the window, staring out with blind 
eyes into the garden. 

"RoUo." She stole up behind him. *'Don't fret— it's 
no good. It will all come right in the end. I know it 
will! The child loves you." 

Still he made no sign or sotmd. She slipped a hand 
through his arm aind went on in her tender voice : 

"It's cruel, dear — the treachery! I understand. But 
it's . . . just life, a turn of the wheel. What did you 
say, last night" — she was whispering now — "about Na- 
ture's compensations? We must take the rough as well 
as the smooth. And if I can help, I will, RoUo. Be- 
tween us " 



He swung round. 

"You mean that?" 

"Yes," she nodded. 

"Coming — ^to town?" His face was white. 

"For as long as you want me." 

Unashamed, he brushed his hand across his eyes. 

"Why, my sweet, that's Eternity." 

She smiled at him, strangely content. 



CHAPTER XXII 

'^What are you doing, Deirdre ?" 

''Shampooing the palm," came a laughing voice from 
the floor below. "Do you want me, dear?" 

"Just for a minute." Hyacinth leaned over the nar- 
row banisters. "It's hats again — and I can't choose! 
There's that brown one I loved at the shop, but here I 
look like a pig in a poke! Oh, what a nuisance one's 
clothes are!" 

Deirdre laid down her sponge and saucer beside the 
bottle of "palm oil" and ran lightly up the stairs to the 
girl's bedroom over the drawing-room. Her own lay 
just behind it, and beyond where the house jutted out 
were a bathroom and a narrow cabin in which Day fit- 
ted tightly. 

The "doll's house in Deanery Street," as Hyacinth 
called it, was still a toy to its young mistress, although 
she missed the spacious rooms at the Hall. 

She stood before the three-fold mirror, a frown upon 
her pretty face, trying to fit a velvet toque over the 
masses of her hair. 

"It's too small" — her voice was hopeless — "or, per- 
haps I'm suffering from swollen head?* She tore it off 
dramatically, as Deirdre peered over her shoulder. "You 
put it on. Why, you look a dream! That's a mercy — 
it's found its owner. Now, Deirdre, don't be pr-r-roud ! 
I want you to have it. Please do." 

The beautiful green-blue eyes were full of a wistful 
and caressing light. 

"You never let me give you things, so just this once 
be generous ! Yes, that's the right word — with, an obsti- 
nate darling like yourself! If not, I'll give it to 
Lisette, and that will be 'throwing money away.' " She 
was laughing now, as she quoted a phrase familiar dur- 
ing the past month. 

Both Mesurier and his daughter had a hearty con- 

234 



AUTUMN 235 

tempt for money per se. They indulged in the fancy 
of the moment to an extent that worried Deirdre. 

"I think we ought to send it back. Fm sure they'd 
exchange it for another." But she gave a sidelong look 
at the glass, aware that the dark folds of velvet brought 
out the clearness of her skin and the red gleams in her 
glossy hair. 

"No, it's settled. You, or Lisette! Now, look here. 
Isp't this fun?" She gathered up a wide-brimmed hat 
that lay on the lace counterpane and was turned up at 
a sharp angle. "You see, if I tilt it up this way, on one 
side is Hyacinth, on the other just the tip of her chin. 
When I meet people I want to avoid it becomes my 'per- 
fect shield and buckler.' To those I love I offer a view 
of my profile, like an embossed coin ! Oh, dear, I'm so 
tired." 

She flung herself down in the arm-chair and pressed a 
delicate hand to her brow. 

"Headache ?" Deirdre glanced at her anxiously. 

"Nothing much ! Just town — the noise and fuss. How 
I wish I were back at Weavers !" 

A ring of pain was in her voice. 

"Poor little girl ! I'm so sorry." Deirdre knelt down 
beside her, slipping an arm round her waist. "Never 
mind — it's not for long." 

The head with its heavy burden of hair drooped lower ; 
now it lay wearily on Deirdre's shoulder. There were 
violet shadows under the eyes, shaded by the full white 
lids with their gold-tipped fringe of darker lashes. 

A muffled voice came up to her friend. "Chris ... I 
do miss him so. I think Rollo's simply cruel! He's 
always pretended to be above all the stupid old conven- 
tions — that the great thing was to be iree and happy 
and fulfil oneself, untrammelled by social laws. And 
now at the first hitch he recants. I don't see the sense of 
it ! We shall always, always love each other. And life's 
so short, why waste the days? Hats? — futile. Who 
wants hats?" 

Deirdre smiled at this anti-climax. "/ do — that velvet 
toque ! I think you're a dear to give it me. And, Hya- 
cinth, remember this: Faith can be only measured 



236 AUTUMN 

by tests. A love that can't survive absence *' She 

broke off, conscious here that she was taking the wrong 
line, and went on hurriedly: "In any case, you must 
play fair. Chris belongs to another woman." 

"He doesn't." Hyacinth drew herself up, her face 
flushed and indignant. "She cheated from the very start. 
No, he never let it out, but Rollo did; I know it's true. 
He only became engaged to her to get her out of a silly 
mess — ^a practical joke at the Grange that scandalised the 
old brewer. And then she held Chris to it. That little 
beast, Mrs. Gage, helped. It was planned between them. 
He was trapped! And if you call that true marriage" — 
she threw out her hands with a scornful gesture — ^"I'd 
sooner live and die single. Love is superior to the 
law !" 

"And what about honour?" Deirdre spoke in her gen- 
tlest voice. "The Mesuriers have always placed that 
rather high, haven't they. Hyacinth?" 

The girl winced. 

"I don't know — I don't care! Rollo and I are dif- 
ferent." She bit her Up. "What's the good of all our 
talks about liberty of thought and action and 'happiness 
as a real force,' if now, when I want desperately to be 
happy, in my own way, Rollo says : *It won't do. The 
world would condemn you utterly!' That for the 
world!" She snapped her fingers. "As if it lived in 
Weavers woods ! Nobody knew — nobody cared. It was 
our secret utterly." 

"A secret that was bound to slip, sooner or later. / 
knew." Hyacinth gave a little start, but Deirdre went 
on steadily. "That is, about Chris. I found his horse 
beyond the gate tethered to the big tree, and I heard 
voices in the wood, caught a glimpse of you both one 
night. But, although I wondered, later on when I really 
got to know you, child, I thought it was impossible, that 
it must have been — some village girl." 

"But if you saw us in the woods — saw m^f" Her 
breath quickened with excitement and discomfort. 

"I didn't look," said Deirdre simply. "It wasn't any 
affair of mine — a lovers' meeting. I ran away. I 
couldn't stay and spy upon them." 



if 
«1 



AUTUMN 237 

"Oh, you darling f" The girl hugged her in her sud- 
den deep relief. Isn't it like you — such a sportsman ! 
Chris always said you were. Well" — she stretched her 
slender arms above her head with a fanciful yawn which 
broke off sharply in a sigh — *Tve promised RoUo not to 
write until Christmas — not a line! To go through this 
social farce : buy hats that I can't wear'' — ^a smile curved 
her full lips ; the reaction of youth was setting in — "and 
prance about in high heels on hard pavements, bow and 
smile and be as Aunt Byng-ish as I can! — mercifully 
without her figure! There's the telephone! Shall I 
go?" 

"No; you sit there and rest." Deirdre rose and ran 
dowfistairs over the soft luxurious carpets. 

^Yes?" she picked up the receiver. 

Is that Mrs. Caradoc?" Mesurier spoke in a formal 
voice. 

"No, it's Deirdre !" she laughed. "Good morning. So 
you're in town?" 

"Hullo! How are you? I came up last night and 
resisted a strong temptation to call and lure you out for a 
midnight stroll. I wonder— can I come to lunch and bring 
a couple of men to-day? I want Hyacinth to know them 
— ^Lord Courthorpe, a college friend, and his nephew, 
Reggie Bolsover. He's a nice fresh soldier-boy, keen on 
dancing — quite young. It doesn't matter if you're busy 
— or the veal cutlets won't go round! You see I know 
all about it." She heard him chuckle happily. "But, 
anyhow, I'm coming myself, if it's only to pick a bone 
with you — a veal bone, not a quarrel !" He lowered his 
voice. "I must see you." 

"You shall. Will lunch at two suit you?" She 
glanced up at the clock. "And, of course, bring the 
soldier-boy, and his uncle to flirt with the chaperon!" 
She added in a cautious whisper: "A good thing — the 
child's brooding. I'll tell you all when we meet. How's 
Weavers? — ^the water-garden?" 

"Ripping. I've finished the last bridge. And I've sent 
a lot of herbaceous plants with Second-Best to Four 
Comers and told him to plant them along the hedge in 
the orchard — ^make a border there. All the nice old- 



238 AUTUMN 

fashioned plants. Foxgloves, Canterbury Bells, Lark- 
spur. It faces south and is out of the reach of Nebu- 
chadnezzar! It will cultivate his artistic taste. He's 
already a trifle like B Anard Shaw !" 

"How dare you trespass on my estate ?" 

"Ha, ha ! I'm ground-landlord. I can't see it going to 
rack and ruin! Tell me, before they cut us oflF, would 
you like a 'Dorothy Perkins' trained against the porch 
of the garden? There's a clematis on one side, a purple 
one, needs cutting back, but the other wall's quite bare, 
and oh, of course, I forgot to tell you, I'm having a seat 
built inside where we can sit on summer evenings. The 
sort that goes with a church-warden pipe, an oak settle 
with panelled back. It wanted that, it looked so lonely! 
And Higgs has been clamouring for a job, whilst Best — 
the original Elijah — has been pestering me for 'rustic 
seats.' You know those gnarled monstrosities that pierce 
your ribs when you lean back? So I balanced matters 
between the pair — ^who had laid their hoary heads to- 
gether " 

There came an ominous blank on the wire. 

"Hullo!" Deirdre called, impatiently. 

"Number, please?" A woman's voice, dull and indif- 
ferent, answered her. 

"You've rung us off !" She replaced the receiver with 
the usual virtuous indignation. 

Hyacinth had entered the room. 

"Is that Ralph ?" she asked smiling. "He's coming to 
take me to the Zoo this afternoon at three o'clock. I 
had a line from him just now. And he wants us to fix 
a day to go to Chatham and see his new ship. I thought, 
perhaps, he was breaking the news." 

"No, that was your father speaking. He'll be here to 
lunch with two friends. Would you like to walk across 
to Harrods' and bring back some flowers for the table? 
The ones from Weavers are all faded." 

Hyacinth considered it. 

"With Olga as chaperon? Do you think that's quite 
sufficient?" The mischievous smile on her pretty face 
vaguely annoyed Deirdre. 

"SilJy child! What next?" 



AUTUMN 239 

"Ah ... I wonder." The girl turned slowly away, 
then glanced back. "Who are these 'friends' coming to 
lunch ? Men, I suppose !" Her voice was scornful. 

"Yes." Deirdre relented. She followed the slim up- 
right figure and intercepted her gn the stairs. 

"Sweetheart, you're vexed with me. What have I 
done ? Won't you tell me ?" 

"Nothing. Only — I'm not a child! D'you think 
that I can't understand? If some one bribed you to go 
away and forget Weavers, and me, and RoUo, and ex- 
pected you to be humbly grateful in return for a new 

circle of friends " She broke oflF incoherently. "I 

feel as if every one conspired to make me utterly dis- 
loyal !" 

Deirdre smiled rather sadly. 

"You think your father would wish that? Has he 
^ver deceived you in any way?" 

"No." Hyacinth flushed at her thoughts. 

"Then why should he play the hypocrite now? If any- 
thing he's been too candid ! All he asks is that you should 
see another side of life for a time — the social side. You 
may despise it, but it adds to your experience. Rollo 
hates it, but all the same he's passed through it in his 
youth and he thinks it's wise now for you — a part of 
your worldly education. Can't you meet him half- 
way, cheerfully, with an equal courage? He's not in 
town for his atvn pleasure. I suppose you will admit 
that?" 

To her amazement Hyacinth laughed. 

Then with a spontaneous gesture she stooped and 
kissed the elder woman, standing on the step below. 

"I love to hear you stick up for him! You're so 
loyal." She raised her head with a proud little ges- 
ture. "So am I. Would you like me to wear my new 
dress?" 

"I would." Deirdre recognised the motive underlying 
the speech. It was a concession to social duty — no girlish 
impulse of vanity. "Now, I must go and worry Cook. 
Limch isn't till two o'clock, so you'll have time for a 
nice walk." 

"And come home with a fine colour?" The blue-green 



240 AUTUMN 

eyes were mischievous. She leaned down over the ban- 
isters, laughing, and fired a parting shot : 

"Then Kollo will remark how well you're looking after 
mer 

She was off with a quick, childish skip, calling loudly 
for Lisette. 

Deirdre stood for a moment, thoughtful. At times 
the insidious notion rankled that Hyacinth had guessed 
the truth. For Love is a powerful teacher. He has a 
**wireless" of his own, which intercepts calls outside the 
radius of the pair involved. 

Did she guess how matters lay between her father 
and her friend, but miss the fundamental basis? Deir- 
dre's cheek burned at the thought. Then determinedly 
she drove the unpleasant theory out of her mind and 
turned to her domestic duties — ^the revision of their sim- 
ple lunch. 

The cook was in a bad temper. Late head kitchen- 
maid at the Hall, and alive to her new dignity, she con- 
ceived it due to herself to inveigh against the smallness 
of the kitchen. 

Til do my best, mum" — she looked resigned — "but 
the places here is not handy. And as to the larder, 'ow 
anything keeps — ^to say nothing of the mice I" 

"We must ask the Squire for a cat." Deirdre ignored 
the rest, and the cook, aware of this, bridled. 

"A cat won't eat black beetles, mum. If I'd have 
known what a small house I were coming to " 

Deirdre checked her. 

"I see. You would rather be at Weavers, under Mrs. 
Mason again?" 

"Indeed, no !" She tossed her head. "There's plenty 
of places in London, mum. I 'ad a letter yesterday ask- 
ing if I'd like a change." 

"Well, if you do, it's quite simple. We must try 
Mary — she wants to come, and she's so fond of Miss 
Mesurier." Deirdre smiled in her sleeve. 

"You wouldn't care for her cooking, mum. She's a 
heavy^ hand with the pastry. And I'm sure I've tried 
to suit you, mum." Injured pride was in her voice. 

Deirdre turned at tlvt Vdtchen door. 



AUTUMN 241 



«T». 



Tve never complained, have I, Kate ? But I shouldn't 
at all like you to stay, if you really felt unhappy here. 
All the same we should miss your cakes, so think it over. 
It's better for you to earn a character as cook than to 
go now with only a letter from the housekeeper at the 
Hall, where you had no responsibility. I've ordered an 
ice by telephone. Have you wafers in the house?" 

"Yes'm" — the cook smiled nervously — "I've every- 
thing." She twisted her apron in her hands. "I'm 
sure I'd be sorry to leave myself, after my long service 
and all ! P'raps, mum, you'd kindly say nothing just yet 
to Miss Hyacinth, so long as I gives satisfaction." She 
drew a deep-bosomed sigh. 

"Well, think it over," Deirdre nodded. "It's just as 
well to be quite sure. I shall keep what you've said to 
myself. Don't forget cream in the spinach." 

She motmted the stairs wearily, impatient at the con- 
tretemps. 

"That's over, pro tern. I've felt it coming for a 
week. The London taint creeping in and capturing the 
country mind. A desire for change — fresh excitement — 
it's the disease of the age. Oh, for my dear Four Cor- 
ners with the trusty Day and a quiet life 1" 

But a further trial was in store. She had just com- 
pleted a hasty toilette and seated herself at the writing- 
table beneath the window, where double panes shut out 
the noise of the narrow street, when the drawing-room 
door was thrown wide and Charles announced "Mrs. 
Thursby." 

Deirdre rose with a little gasp. Her mother, steppine^ 
gingerly, as though upon unhallowed ground, advanced, 
elegant and frigid. 

"Yes. I expect you're surprised. But I thought it my 
duty to come and see you. I am merely in town for 
the day. This was the only possible hour." 

She submitted to Deirdre's nervous embrace and cast 
a shrewd glance round the room. 

The luxury of its appointments drove her by a swift 
recoil to a hard chair with a straight back. 

"Thanks. I prefer a high seat. I can talk better." 
Deirdre's heart sank down lower still. 



242 AUTUMN 

• 

"You're looking very well," she began. But her mother 
waved the topic aside. 

"I am not here to discuss my health — my unfortu- 
nate health — ^but your conduct." She gave a faint omi- 
nous sniff and drew a lace-edged handkerchief out of 
her little silk hand-bag. 

"Now," thought Deirdre helplessly, "she will wave 
that about, take off her gloves, shew her rings, and 
eventually cry." Out aloud she said calmlv : "I don't 
know what you mean by my conduct. I explained to you 
in my last letter I was chaperoning Miss Mesurier." 

Mrs. Thursby raised her veil and hegan to unbut- 
ton her dove-coloured gloves. 

"Explained!" she scoffed. "You never answered a 
single question that I asked, although you knew how 
anxious I was. And how you can treat your mother 
like this, who has lived for you . . . worked for 
you" — she straightened the beautiful rings on her hand 
and gathered up the scrap of lawn — "is beyond all 
human understanding. You're breaking my heart, 
Deirdre, by your neglect and wilfulness" — dab, dab at the 
bright, dry eyes — "I never dreamed that a child of mine 
could forget — ^all duty — and decent feeling!" 

Deirdre looked annoyed. 

"I really don't understand you, Mamma. If you re- 
fer to my visit to town, it surely is my own affair. 
The Mesuriers are nice people and Hyacinth is my 
great friend. If she likes to have me here with her, 
why should you object to it?" 

Mrs. Thursby's eyes flashed. 

"I do object — emphatically! It's scandalous — noth- 
ing less. Your place is by your husband's side ; and if 
you choose to let a man — ^another man— come between 
you, you will have to bear the consequences. / shall 
not interfere." 

"I hope not." Deirdre rose. She stood now before 
her mother, forcing her to meet her glance. 

"Before you make such accusations you ought to be 
certain of your factsi. This house is Hyacinth's alone; 
Mr. Mesurier does not live here. But quite apart from 
all this — disgusting gossip, I think it is wise for you to 



AUTUMN 243 

know that I do not intend to return to Mark, now or 
later." 

"You mean ...?*' Curiosity strove with the elder 
woman's sense of dismay. 

"What I say. For many years you have regretted — 
openly — ^all the facts of my marriage, have called me 
'weak/ 'lacking in spirit/ and counselled me to rebel. 
Now that I take your advice, you impute the most un- 
worthy motives. Before I ever met the Mesuriers I 
had left Mark — it is nothing new. Cousin Maddie gave 
me my chance and Mark was willing to let me .go. 

"Perhaps he has not told you this? I mean when 
you stayed with him in town, during my absence, with- 
out my knowledge, and offered to make peace be- 
tween us." 

"It was my duty," said Mrs. Thursby. She hid be- 
hind her handkerchief and produced a fairly successful 
sob. "To think you can treat me in this way! Your 
poor father would turn in his grave !" 

The words rose to Deirdre's lips: "Fm glad you 
still remember him!" but she choked them back des- 
perately. Mrs. Thursby's widowhood had been cen- 
tred largely round her "weeds": the exact depth of 
crape required and the length of her rosary of jet. She 
had certainly missed the flattery of the kind old man's 
unfaltering worship and 'felt to the full the limitations 
a definite income imposed on her purse ; but with it was 
mixed a certain relief — ^that of absolute independence. 
Yet, in a sense, she had remained faithful to the dead 
man. She did not belong to the class of women who 
find life impossible without the presence of a mate. 
Her refinement prohibited re-marriage at an age when 
passion is deemed by the world to be either ridiculous 
or repugnant. v 

Deirdre, recalling this fact and the sorrow of her 
father's death, felt its softening influence. After all, 
he had loved her mother, spared her much, lived for 
her smile. She knew that if he were present now he 
would check his daughter loyally, yet conve)r by a look 
or a quiet word his secret sympathy with justice. 

More than once in his latter years he had prayed 



244 AUTUMN 

that Deirdre might prove a comfort to her mother when 
old, adding with his merry twinkle: "You must let 
her have her own way — she always knows what she 
wants !" 

Ah! that dear loving face, with the keen-witted hu- 
morous eyes. . . . 

Deirdre, her sight blurred, knelt down by her mother's 
side, obeying the impulse of the moment. 

"Can't you believe in me?" she pleaded. "I don't 
want to be hard. Mamma, but you do imagine such 
dreadful things! And I'm not a child — I'm a middle- 
aged woman with a full and bitter experience. 

"I've tried my best, honestly, for years to be a good 
wife. I've gone through endfess trouble. Mark's tem- 
per — ^well — ^you know ! And now that I'm getting on in 
life he's tired of me — I'm no further use ! He told me 
plainly I might go, that he regretted his bachelor days. 
You're proud— could you stand it? Do you really wish 
me to return to that old life of daily strain, recrimina- 
tion and neglect?" 

Mrs. Thursby hesitated. She was inwardly attached 
to her children, but for many years the love of ruling 
had warped her broader sense of justice. 

"I think I should have been consulted. It's not a 
question for you to decide without the advice of your 
elders. And if you really cared for your mother you 
would turn to her in a crisis like this. But you've 
always thrust me away from you. Independence has 
been your ruin! I don't complain." A genuine sob of 
self-pity broke from her lips. "I'm accustomed now 
to live alone — ^n^lected by my only daughter!" 

Deirdre's moment of sympathy passed. She let her 
mother's delicate hand fall back mto her lap. 

"Would you like me to come and live with you ?" 

Mrs. Thursby, nonplussed by this most inconvenient 
question, evaded it with fresh tears. 

"I ask no favours — it's not my way. I've bom my 
cross alone for years. And it won't be long now, 
Deirdre, before I rejoin your dear father. Then, per- 
haps, you will miss your mother and realise what you 
have lost . . /* SVie ^tttA out over her handkerchief 



AUTUMN 245 

at her daughter's troubled countenance. "But, of course, 
you cannot understand — ^you've never been a mother 
yourself !" 

The refined cruelty of the speech, with its faint sus- 
picion of womanly triumph achieved its object. 

Deirdre rose and stood erect by the writing table. 
She realised the gulf that lay between her soul and 
that of the woman who had borne her and — ^aware of 
the stab— could twit her oflfspring with being childless! 

Silence hung upon the room. It was broken by the 
chime of the clock. 

Slowly Deirdre turned rotmd. Mrs. Thursby was 
fidgeting, aware that she had gone too far. 

"It's getting late." She half rose. 

"I hope you will stay to lunch with us" — her daughter 
spoke with cold politeness — ^"and meet the Mesuriers. 
Perhaps then you will understand the situation more 
clearly. The Squire is up in town to-day and is coming 
here with two of his friends. He doesn't often desert 
Weavers, so it seems an opportunity." 

"I don't think I can spare the time." Mrs. Thursby 
temporized. 

"You will have to lunch somewhere, mother" — Deir- 
dre smiled faintly — "before you go on for your shopping. 
Ah, here comes Hyacinth !" 

The visitor hurriedly lowered her veil as the door 
opened. She was swayed by conflicting desires : to eflfect 
a retreat, dignified and sorrowful, or to stay and sat- 
isfy to the full her overwhelming curiosity. 

She decided upon the latter course. It was her "duty" 
to know these people with whom her daughter's life was 
involved. Economy and a good lunch helped to balance 
the swinging scales. 

"This is my mother," said Deirdre. 

Hyacinth smiled prettily, advancing with an out- 
stretched hand. 

"How nice I I wanted to meet you. Deirdre has often 
talked of you and her brother, whom Ralph knows. 
I've just been out across the Park, taking Olga for a 
walk." She slipped a hand through the dog's collar. 

"Give the lady a paw," she ordered. 



246 AUTUMN 

Mrs. Thursby graciously patted the beautiful Borzoi's 
head. Inwardly she was taken aback by this simple 
and hearty reception. She saw that the girl was well- 
bred and her grace and freshness brought a note of 
youthful innocence into the house. 

They chatted for a few minutes, then the visitor 
rose to her feet. 

"Fm afraid I must go." She drew herself up, ele- 
gant in her dove-grey gown, with her faded good looks 
and that subtle air of expecting attention and flattery 
which a sheltered life so often brings. 

Hyacinth expostulated. 

"Oh, can't you stay and lunch with us? Rollo's com- 
ing; he'd like to meet you. Unless you have another 
engagement ?" 

"No — only a round of shopping. If you wouldn't 
mind my slipping away directly after, I'm sorely 
tempted." 

"Then that's settled," Hyacinth smiled. "Fm just 
going to arrange these flowers. I hope they'll do?" 
She turned to Deirdre: "They're all I could get, 
darling." 

Mrs. Thursby noted the look that accompanied the 
caressing word. "They seem fond of one another," 
she thought as the girl ran off. 

"Would you like to come up to my room and take 
off your veil ?" Deirdre asked. 

"Please." She wanted to see the house, and her 
quick eyes were darting about as she followed her 
daughter up the stairs. 

"How pretty your chintzes are!" she glanced round 
approvingly. "You seem to be comfortable here." 

Quite — though the rooms are rather small. I miss 
the outdoor life at Weavers. We have this floor to 
ourselves: just H}racinth's room in front; a bathroom 
and a cupboard for Day." 

"Oh! She's with you? As your maid?*' 

"Yes." There came a tap at the door. "Here she 
IS." Deirdre smiled, catchmg the quickly suppressed 
frown on the faithful servant's face as she entered. 

''Well, Day" — Mrs. Thursby's voice was condescending 



AUTUMN 247 

— ^"how are you? You're looking well — ^and so smart 
Quite the maid!" The speech was edged. 

For these were old enemies. Mrs. Thursby, who 
rarely kept her Abigails for over a year, resented the 
fact that Deirdre with her slender means could ensure 
fidelity. 

"Thank you, mum, I'm nicely now." She folded a 
spotless towel across the plated can of hot water. "It's 
a long time since we've seen you, mum." ("Tit for 
tat," she said to herself, "I don't expect she's been in- 
vited — only here to make mischief!") Then she turned 
to her mistress. 

"May I have your tea-gown, mum? There's a stitch 
wanted in the skirt" She went to the wardrobe as 
she spoke and took down a new dress, shaking out the 
soft folds and throwing it across her arm with a ges- 
ture borrowed from Lisette. 

"Will you be wearing your black to-night for the thea- 
tre, mum? Or your apricot silk?" 

Deirdre could have laughed aloud. 

"My black, I think. I'll tell you later." She saw 
through Day's sudden zeal. As a matter of fact, these 
three costumes completed the list of her evening dresses. 

A bell rang far below and the sharp hammer of 
the knocker. 

"There they are — shall we go down?" 

Mrs., Thursby acquiesced, with a last critical glance 
at the mirror. 

"Angele — my new maid — is a perfect genius at doing 
hair. Do you like the way I wear it now?" She went 
on without a pause : "I got her from Lady Molyneux — 
a treasure! — so attached to me, and makes all my 
morning frocks. Day, will you just pin back my veilr 
Ah, no, not like that! Can't you see that catches my 
hair? Give it to me, I'd better do it Thank you." 
She rustled out to add on the stairs a loud "aside." 
"Poor Day — so willing — ^but one can't expect her to be 
trained r 



CHAPTER XXIII 

Had Deirdre not been labourinfi^ tinder the intimate 
sense of failure which her mother so often induced 
in her — a sense of hunting vainly to find the door which 
led to the other's heart — she would have realized that 
the lunch, socially, achieved success. 

The Squire, with his almost uncanny perception of ten- 
sion in the atmosphere, had recognised a hint of strain 
beneath Deirdre's welcoming smile. He had set himself 
determinedly to captivate tiie elderly lady; and when 
the Squire "stooped to conquer" he rarely failed in his 
enterprise ! 

Mrs. Thursby, placed between an attentive host and 
a well-known peer, flattered on her weakest point by 
becoming the centre of conversation, felt her doubts 
and anxieties fade like clouds before the sun. 

Lord Courthorpe, a middle-aged man with a ruddy 
skin, mediocre brains and a cheery and possessive man- 
ner towards women old and young, entered into Mesu- 
rier's game heartily, dividing his time between the mother 
and the daughter. 

He had approved of Hvacinth at first sight. Here was 
a girl, lovely, simple and well-bred, sufficientiy dowered 
for his favourite nephew, whose conduct of late had 
been erratic, causing him some anxiety. 

"Quite time he settled down," was the thought up- 
permost in his mind and with a skill bom of prac- 
tice, he manceuvred the young pair's isolation. 

The well-served, dainty lunch, excellent wine and con- 
ventional chatter had produced a reaction in Mrs. 
Thursby. She purred now like a sleek cat. 

"After all," she told herself, "Deirdre is seeing life 
under pleasant auspices. No doubt my maternal anxiety 
led me into a slight error. Mr. Mesurier is charming 
and his daughter a nice simple girl who seems attached 
to Deirdre. It shows one shouldn't listen to gossip." 



AUTUMN 249 

' With which virtuous summing-up, she proceeded to 
lay her cards on the table. 

'Tve heard so much about Weavers," she smiled co- 
quettishly at the Squire. "One of my greatest friends 
in Brighton has been spending the summer at Dieppe 
and she met there your rector's wife and another lady, 
whose name I forget, but who lived at a place called 
the Grange." 

"Ah, yes, the Pontefracts," Mesurier spoke indiflfer- 
ently, his eyes resolutely turned away from Hyacinth's 
glance of attention. 

Mrs. Thursby drifted on. 

"Of course, my friend was interested, as she knew 
that my daughter was staying there. She liked Mrs. 
Pontefract — not good-looking, but very sincere, and 
wrapped up in Zenana work." 

A ribald murmur crossed the table. 

"What's that, a new fruit ?" — Bolsover was whispering 
to Hyacinth — "or am I mixing it up with bananas?" A 
ripple of youthful laughter followed. 

Mesurier, with a faint smile, picked up the threads 
of the conversation. 

"I believe she goes in for charity — of the kind that 
does not begin at home! Is that too severe?" His 
mouth twisted. "As a matter of fact, although she's a 
neighbour, we see very little of her. Mrs. Gage is our 
tennis champion, an acquisition at tournaments and per^ 
sona grata at the Grange. I believe they were both at 
school together." 

Mrs. Thursby, watching her host, from his casual 
manner shrewdly divined that the ladies in question did 
not reach the social status required at the Hall. 

This, she thought, might explain much that was spite- 
ful in the conversations carefully retailed to her anent 
the Squire's eccentricity and his open penchant for her 
daughter. 

She glanced sideways at Deirdre and caught her laugh- 
ing words to Courthorpe. 

"I must admit I love a farce! I'm looking forward 
to Hawtrey to-night. Have you seen the new Gaiety 
piece? I hear it's gorgeous — such dresses!" 



2SO ^ AUTUMN 

"Ask Reggie!" Courthorpe twinkled. "He's one of 
the pillars of the place." A suggestion of dryness 
was in the speech and the young soldier looked up 
sharply. 

"Are you talking of 'Clorinda's Curls'? Simply rat- 
tling! You ought to see it. Jolly music, goes with a 
swing and the chorus the prettiest in London !" 

He spoke almost defiantly. Courthorpe was seized 
with a brilliant notion. He had realised that Hyacinth 
had roused his nephew's admiration. What a contrast 
she would make, with her delicate grace and silvery 
laugh, to that other charmer whose "footlight smile" 
was making such inroads on Reggie's purse. He decided 
to put it to the test. 

"We must have a box there one night Soon — ^if 
you've got an evening free. What do you say, Mesu- 
rier?" He nodded to him over his glass. 

"Excellent, if I'm in town. But I know Hyacinth 
would enjoy it." He smiled happily at his daughter. 
She was looking very pretty, he thought. 

"And wind up with a little supper." Courthorpe 
beamed round at the party. "Can't you come, Mrs. 
Thursby?" He included her gallantly. 

"I'm afraid not," she affected to sigh. "I'm a Coun- 
try Mouse — I live at Brighton." 

Mesurier glanced at Deirdre, the same thought in both 
their minds: a somewhat decorative rodent wreathed in 
sweet simplicity. 

"I'm only up in town for the day," the Country 
Mouse went on to explain, '1)ut I wanted to get a peep 
at my daughter." 

"To see if she were behaving herself?" The speaker 
laughed uproariously, rubbing his hands — a habit of his 
when greatly amused. Little he guessed how the chance 
shot had hit the target in the centre. 

Mesurier saw a faint glow of colour rise in the 
faded cheeks and a little flutter, purely nervous, of 
Mrs. Thursby's thin white fingers. 

"That's it !" She nodded her head gaily. The Squire 
ad^iired her courage. For Deirdre was watching the 
pair, her own face mscrutable. 



AUTUMN 251 

* 

"And the verdict?" enquired the peer, with a wicked 
sidelong glance at the daughter. 

"Ah ... !" said Mrs. Thursby sweetly. "It's not 
the fashion nowadays to praise one's children openly!" 

"Now I call that hedging!" Courthorpe broke into 
another infectious laugh and leaned nearer Deirdre. "I 
don't mind betting you, two to one, she's got a lecture 
up her sleeve ! She's only sparing your feelings in pub- 
lic, because she's so tender-hearted. Never mind," he 
lowered his voice, "you're sure to have other compen- 
sations. A pretty woman always has!" 

"Thank you!" Deirdre laughed. This elderly man of 
the world amused her. He had a very charming man- 
ner which took from his little familiarities all suggestion 
of offence. 

"The law of balance?" suggested Mesurier. He could 
not resist the jealous temptation to turn her thoughts 
towards himself, aware that the words held memories. 

But Deirdre was on her guard under her mother's 
watchful eye. 

Bolsover chimed in. 

"What about this theatre party? Seems to me that 
my worthy uncle is hedging himself! You mark my 
words, it's one of those pleasant invitations that are 
tossed about over the port and never achieve a settled 
date. / know 'em !" He turned to Hyacinth. "The only 
way to get even is to borrow money from the host — ^the 
would-t^ evasive host — and then, you see, you're fixed 
for good in his defective memory." 

"You ought to be soundly fixed in mine," Courthorpe 
chuckled, "eh, Reggie?" His ruddy face was a comical 
mixture of severity and indulgence. He was very fond 
of his brother's son. The boy was his heir, the last 
of the line, and he wanted to see him "settled down" 
and out of the hands of "that Gaiety minx"! 

"Well to prove that your theory's right " He drew 

out a diminutive book, screwing up his prominent eyes, 
where the tell-tale lines formed a net-work, and peered 
narrowly at the entries. 

"Such a lot on just now, isn't there?" he said rue- 
fully. 



252 AUTUMN 

"There I" Reggie roared with delight. "What did I 
tell you?" Every one laughed. 

There came a knock at the front door. Deirdre, turn- 
ing her head, signalled to Charles, with a quiet order. 
"In here, if it's Mr. Trollope." 

"Would the fifth of November suit you?" Courthorpe 
addressed the chaperon. "You've no conscientious ob- 
jections to making merry on Guy Fawkes Day?" 

"Only that I think a bomb might wake up the Gov- 
ernment now/' Her eyes twinkled. "I'm not alluding, 
of course, to the House of Lords." 

Courthorpe grinned. "Then that's all right, provided, 
of course, I can get a box." 

''Another saving clause!" said the Squire. "Don't 
forget he mentioned supper." 

"Now, look here," protested Courthorpe, "is this my 
party or is it yours?" 

"That's what I want to know," laughed Mesurier. ' 

Courthorpe gave him up in disgust. "Well, Mrs. Cara- 
doc?" He turned to her appealingly. ("Just as if she 
were really the first to be consulted," thought Mrs. 
Thursby. She felt a complacent glow of pride. It 
did not occur to her that this fact, considered earlier 
in the day, would have confirmed her worst suspicions!) 

"You're free that evening, Hyacinth ?" Deirdre smiled 
across at the girl with intention. Here was the real 
guest. 

"Yes, the fifth. It's the night before Aunt Bynpf 
takes me to that ball at the Ritz. I know I kept it 
free." 

"Is that the Massey's dance? I'm going," R^gie 
broke in eagerly. "You'll keep me some spaces on 
yoiir card, won't you? We'll fix it up at the theatre." 

"Then the fifth it is," decided Courthorpe. "I'll drop 
you a line later on." He paused as TroUope was an- 
nounced. 

"Hullo, Ralph!" Mesurier nodded, introducing him 
casually. "Pull up a chair for yourself. Coffee or a 
glass of port?" 

"Now, do I look a teetotaler?" He stooped over Deir- 
dre and wrung her hand until she winced. 



AUTUMN 353 

"You're too hearty, Sailor-boy I" This was his Weav- 
ers nickname. 

"Awfully sorry!" He sat down at her elbow and 
with a mischievous face added in an audible whisper: 
"You shouldn't give it away like that!" His glance 
roamed rotind the table. "Is that your mother?" he 
lowered his voice. "I must tell her that I know Jack." 

"Yes, do, she'll be quite excited." 

Courthorpe claimed her attention. 

"Do you like the Carlton or the Savoy t" 

Reggie, in a loud aside, "Or the 'Petits Pois^r 

Hyacinth giggled. This irrepressible youth amused 
her. 

"One and sixpence, including wine," he informed her 
solemnly. 

Courthorpe, having settled the place for supper, at- 
tacked Mesurier. 

"Now, then, you're coming; none of your pressing 
country engagements!" 

The Squire was counting on his fingers. 

"It's a Friday? That's awkward. I always spend 
week-ends at Weavers, and on the fifth I've promised 
to go to a local agricultural dinner." 

Courthorpe scowled. 

"/ know you!" He turned towards Mrs. Thursby. 
"A regular hermit — hates London — thinks of nothing but 
his garden ! He and I were at College together, I won't 
say how many years ago, and here we are, tneux jeu, 
watching the young generation flirt." 

Mrs. Thursby actually rose to the gay spirit of the 
lunch. "And aiding with your experienced' she gave 
him demure encouragement. 

"How can I help it, sitting here?" He moved heavily 
to his feet as Deirdre gave the signal to Hyacinth. "I 
assure you I'm not frivolous, except under provocation. 
Now, why does she choose to break up the party just as 
I was mustering courage. . . ." 

But Mrs. Thursby found refuge in flight. 

"I must say good-bye, Mr. Mesurier. I've neglected 
my shopping duties sadly, but I've so much enjoyed my 
lunch and the pleasure of meeting you and your daugh- 



254 AUTUMN 

ter. Don't spoil my little girl." She held out her hand 
to him. 

Mesurier answered rather gravely. 

"It's quite the other way about. If you knew the 
relief it was to my mind to feel she is here with Hya- 
cinth. There are so few people I could trust with 
the guardianship. You understand?" 

His dark eyes probed her own. For a moment his 
sincerity brought to the surface the best in her and 
she ceased to be artificial. 

"I do. Fm very much relieved — I mean " She 

was obviously confused at the slip and tried to cover it 
"Deirdre is " 

"Quite perfect !" the Squire laughed. "No, of course, 
you couldn't say it and I shouldn't — ^but that's what we 
think of her. I hope you'll come and see us again, when- 
ever you happen to be in town." 

"Thanks very much. I should like to." 

He watched the slim and dignified figure move round, 
making farewells; saw Trollope intercept her and, all 
unconscious, cement the bond by boyish praise of her 
son; smiled in his sleeve as Deirdre warded off Lord 
Courthorpe, full of wine and gallantry, and turned Her- 
self at the door to give the Squire a parting glance. 

In it he read shy gratitude. 

The task had been an irksome one. For nothing in 
common lay between Mesurier and his widowed guest. 
He had summed her up conclusively before the sec- 
ond course had passed. 

Yet now he felt wholly rewarded for the patient, skil- 
ful flattery so averse to his whole nature. He had 
cleared a tangle in Deirdre's path. 

A fragment of verse recurred to him as he saw the 
door close behind the beloved face, and he murmured 
it, lost in tender retrospection: 

'Is it so small a thing 
To have enjoyed the sun, 
To have lived light in the spring 
To have Ipved, to have thought, to have done?" 

He was brought rudely back to the present by G>ur- 
thorpe's chuckle. 



AUTUMN 255 

"Well, old hermit, that's an uncommonly pretty 
woman !" 

Upstairs Mrs. Thursby arranged her sleek mouse- 
coloured hair, complacently talking all the while. 

"And so, my dear, Fm glad I came. I must admit 
that Adela gave me cause for anxiety. You know she 
met Mrs. Pontefract at Dieppe with your rector's wife." 
She paused, her eyes on Dierdre's face, mirrored in the 
narrow glass. 

'*Our village gossips." The quiet voice was contemptu- 
ous. "I see now where all your strange ideas came 
from." 

But she felt a certain sense of relief. It had puz- 
zled her throughout the lunch, the knowledge that her 
mother had seemed so cognisant of her affairs. She 
had felt faint doubts of Cousin Maddie. 

"I hope that you will write to me" — Mrs. Thursby 
powdered her nose daintily, then dusted it with a little 
square of chamois leather — ^"and tell me more of your 

future plans. About Mark " She hesitated. "I am 

not, as you think, without sympathy. I am fully aware 
of his trying moods. It must be difficult at times to 
put up with his sullen temper. But you have to look 
ahead, my child. Your life just now is an interim" — 
she was pleased with the word and allowed her- 
self a slight concession — ^"with pleasant people. I'll 
admit that — and pleasant surroundings. But we can't 
always live for pleasure. We are not placed in this 
world for that but to obey the call of Duty" — she passed 
a stick of red pomade across her lips — "and to think of 
others." Peering narrowly in the glass, she wiped 
away the tell-tale smear. 

"Isn't that like her?" thought Deirdre. "First she 
paints, then effaces it for fear that people might say 
she painted !" 

Mrs. Thursby resumed her discourse, unaware of her 
daughter's silence. 

"Ifs a pity you ever met Mark. I did not approve 
of it from the start. If you'd waited, taken your mother's 
advice • . ." She broke off to tie her veil. 



2S6 AUTUMN 

"But," she thrust out her pointed chin to keep the 
net in its place, "you were always such an impulsive 

girl. A short engagement — z, speedy marriage " She 

sighed as she pinned down the ends. "Is that tidy?^ 
She turned her head. 

"Quite." Deirdre had to smile, but in her heart she 
felt indignant 

Her mother's practised "sleight of mind," as the Squire 
called this juggling with facts, left her convinced that 
Deirdre had narrowly escaped an elopement. 

The truth was that the girl herself had pleaded for 
a longer engagement but her mother had hurried on the 
wedding to allow for her own departure South. 

Now, as Mrs. Thursby packed away her toilet 
requisites in an inner pocket of her bag, Deirdre moved 
to the door and listened. 

"I'm afraid I shall have to go down soon. I hear 
the men coming up and Hyacinth wants to escape to the 
Zoo with her cousin before it gets too late." 

Mrs. Thursby drew herself up. "I'm sure I don't 
wish to be in the way. Perhaps, some one could call 
me a cab?" Her voice suggested injured pride. 

"Yes, of course, if you re ready, Mamma. I don't 
want to hurry you, but I have my 'duties' to attend to. 
Hyacinth is very young." 

She had yielded to a spark of malice. Mrs. Thursby 
never tired of bringing in the word "duty" and of 
stating that she "lived for it" 

Her mother drifted to the stairs reluctantly, fasten- 
ing her glove. 

"A pretty girl, but rather strange. No doubt, she 
wants bringing out Her father quite a man of the 
world." (Deirdre smiled. Poor Rollo!) "And what 
was the name of the naval boy who knew Jack ? I di3n't 
catch it." 

"Trollope. He's the Squire's nephew. I met him 
before I went to Weavers." 

"Really?" She trailed down slowly, pausing twice to 
admire the pictures. Every inch of her graceful form 
shewed that she did not intend to be hurried. 

She knew that her daughter was fidgeting to ensure 



AUTUMN 



257 



Hyacinth's afternoon pleasure. But, according to her 
narrow outlook, her own dignity was at stake. 

Even in the entrance hall as the taxi buzzed outside 
the door she detained Deirdre to explain the whereabouts 
of a well-known shop. 

Then conscious that precious pennies were ticking 
away recklessly, she kissed her daughter on both cheeks. 

"Good-bye, my child." She straightened her veil. "I 
shall expect a letter soon. Fm glad to see you looking 
so well. Ah, what a blessing it is to be young !'' 






CHAPTER XXIV 

Mesurier closed the drawing-room door behind him with 
a sigh of relief. 

'Gone?" Deirdre asked, amused. 

'Yes, thank Heaven! Courthorpe kept me, unload- 
ing a 'chestnut' on the doorstep. In the middle forgot 
the point and started another. I could have slain him !" 

Deirdre laughed. "What was the story?" 

"Lord knows, I didn't listen. Judged by his face 
when to laugh and he went off shouting : *I knew you'd 
like it!' 

"He's a dear old ass all the same — ^took me back to 
the days of my youth, when I hauled him out of a 
hopeless mess with a seductive female tobacconist! 
Reggie will be just like him — I shan't let Hyacinth marry 
there. He's mixed up with some Gaiety girl. Cour- 
thorpe's very worried about it. Faugh !" He flung him- 
self down in a chair, "how I loathe this London life!" 

"You look tired." She studied his face. 

"Couldn't sleep. I spent last night trying in vain to 
recapture a phase in my youth — that of writing verses." 
He laughed rather consciously. "No fool like an old 
one ! So I gave it up and read a pamphlet on the vir- 
tues of Intensive Culture!" 

He dragged his chair nearer hers. 

"What shall we do this afternoon? Let's look at 
you first, you blessed creature !" ' 

"Well?" she smiled back at him. "How do I stand 
dissipation ?" 

"Resistently. You've still a freckle, right on the bridge 
of your charming nose. Is that what you were anxious 
to hear?" He went off in a boyish laugh. 

"Yes, precisely. It breathes of Weavers. Let's get 
out in the open air ! This house is full of stale cigars." 

"I hope you only mean the smoke? What about a 

2S& 



AUTUMN 259 

drive to Hampstead. It's a chilly wind — are you 
afraid?" 

"Not a bit, it will do me good. I want to talk about 
Hyacinth and I can't here. I'm afraid of Lisette. She 
suffer^ from earache — it's hardly fair — ^keyholes are such 
draughty things." 

She was ott, laughing at his expression. "I shan't 
be long, you can order the taxi." 

Her eyes were bright as she ran upstairs and a latent 
touch of vanity led her to wear the new hat that toned 
with her well-worn dark furs. She tucked a bunch of 
violets in between the lapels of her coat and rang for 
Day and her strongest boots, foreseeing the drive might 
end in a tramp. 

The maid laced them up securely, talking mean- 
while. Unwittingly, she checked her mistress' gaiety by 
a chance allusion to Caradoc. 

"I passed the flat last evening, mum. The porter's 
wife asked me in but it was late and I hadn't time. 
She sez they've got the workmen there doing it up— ever 
so smart! The master's not been well at all — had to 
have the doctor to him. She told me all this on the 
doorstep." 

"What is the matter?" Deirdre frowned. 

"Oh, nothing much, mum — ^pains in 'is arm. New 
Rices, I think it's called. But he doesn't have to stay 
indoors." 

"You didn't see him?" 

"Yes'm, I did. Not there but near the station. He 
was walking quite briskly, mum — there's no need for you 
to worrit." 

"Did he speak to you?" 

"Oh, no, mum. He wasn't looking my way — just 
staring straight ahead — ^and that browned by his holiday, 
I shouldn't have taken him to be ill." This was a sub- 
terfuge of Day's, for Caradoc's arm was in a sling. 

Her words flashed a picture up before the eyes of 
her mistress. The tall figure, with head well back and 
absent gaze, striding down the lamp-lit familiar road, 
homeward bound — to the empty flat. 

An odd sensation of pity moved her; it was almost 



26o AUTUMN 

like a twinge of conscience! How was it all going to 
end, this comedy of separation? Or was it in truth a 
tragedy? 

She went listlessly downstairs. 

The Squire realised the change in Deirdre*s mood and 
respected it in silence, save for a casual remark, as they 
drove up South Audley Street But when they reached 
R^ent's Park and found themselves in the quiet road, 
where the bare trees fringing it shewed presently, be- 
tween the boughs, glimpses of the dark canal, he moved 
sideways in the taxi and laid a hand over hers. 

"Whatisit, Deirdre?" 

"A new worry — Mark's ill. It's a fear that has al- 
ways haimted me — that I shall be forced to go back to 
him. And I can't, Rollo. I can't, now." 

Into Mesurier's face the light of a great hope flashed 
up ; his fingers tightened instinctively on the passive ones 
in his clasp. "No?" He tried to steady his voice. "I 
see. Or, rather, my dear, I don't! I've never liked 
to question you but of course I've guessed at some 
trouble." 

Deirdre stared ahead. 

"I ought to have told you — long ago." 

"Why?" He leaned nearer her. "Whatever belongs 
to your past life is sacred to me. It has formed you — ^the 
real you — and that's enough. I've no curiosity. But if 
the present holds a danger of sorrow or perplexity and 
I can help, it's another matter. Otherwise let's bury it 
among our 'dead yesterdays.' " 

They swerved round over the bridge and into the 
long Avenue Road. Mesurier released her hand and 
drew back in his own comer. It was part of his scrupu- 
lous care of her and she felt touched, as ever, by it. 
Simply she told him the whole story. 

Once she saw his fingers grip the side of the cab, his 
mouth grim, but he kept silent until, at last, she paused 
breathless, her cheeks flashed and glanced sideways, a 
silent question shining in her troubled eyes. 

Even then all he said was a simple : "Yes. I under- 
stand." 

She could not tell that beneath his control lurked a 



AUTUMN 261 

longing to kill this other man who had won her love 
and wasted it and made of her youth an arid desert. 

'*I want," he said, "to be quite unbiassed, if it's pos- 
sible — ^keep my reason intact." He passed a hand across 
his face as if to blot out the sight of her. For he re- 
alised, to his cost, the weak point in the case. "May I 
say what I like, what I honestly think, without the fear 
of hurting you?" 

"Please." But he saw her shoulders stiffen. 

"You believe that you have a valid excuse for leav- 
ing your husband ? That what he said in a fit of temper 
was the truth — ^a definite statement of his opinion?" 

"Yes. In a sense" — she bit her lip — "I don't think he 
really needs me, that he still cares for me, in the 
least." 

"Then why does he ignore your conduct, dwell on the 
chance of your return? It's obvious, isn't it, Deirdre, 
that he wouldn't be having the flat done up unless it 
were to welcome you home?" 

"I suppose so." Her voice was doubtful. 

"Well, have you any definite reason to think it could 
be for another woman?" 

"No — oh, no!" she shrank from him. "Mark isn't — 
like that" 

"I see." Her faintly indignant voice had settled an- 
other doubt of his. But Deirdre for the first time won- 
dered if the Squire had failed her. Where was his 
tender intuition, his sjrmpathy and understanding? She 
had lost the lover in the judge. She resented this steady 
questioning. 

On went the merciless voice. 

"So Caradoc plays a game of patience, cotinting on 
your loyalty, your natural goodness, your marriage vows ; 
confident that one day, sooner or later, you will return? 

"It's damned clever." His brows were knit. "Granted 
an illness or accident, with this veiled and uncertain 
situation, you've no legitimate excuse to offer to your 
own conscience. Once go back and the game is his — ^a 
second rebellion would fall flat, your prestige too sorely 
shaken. And although you sav he 'doesn't care,' in 
your heart of hearts you know he does and this breeds 



262 AUTUMN 

pity and remorse. You're losing strength through a sense 
of injustice." 

"Rollo!" She could bear no more. She leaned for- 
ward to check the driver. She must get out, escape 
from him, before his logic overwhelmed her. 

"I never thought that you — you ^" she broke off, 

with a nervous gesture. But her outstretched arm as it 
neared the chauffeur was caught and held in an iron 
grip. Mesurier's voice when he spoke again was that 
of a master, keen, compelling. 

"Deirdre, look at me !" 

Angry, amazed, she turned her head. So poignant 
was the grief on his face that her own heart dropped a 
beat ; a little cry broke from her lips. 

"Didn't you know?" — his eyes pierced her — "I've got 
to be just — ^to think straight — where your life's happi- 
ness is at stake. To cut out the naked truth, though 
the knife turns on myself! I daren't let my love for 
you warp my judgment — it's too vital. Do you think 
that I haven't counted the cost? The risk of losing you 
—on earth." 

"Why 'on earth'?" She spoke dully, stunned by this 
unforeseen sternness. Dimly she wanted to gain time 
to grasp his meaning, his forcible words. 

"Because" — he smiled mournfully — "afterwards you 
are bound to know ; to understand and forgive me. It's 
only the flesh that's blinding you. In the spirit we 
shall be one again." 

The solemn triumph of his voice startled her. Upon 
his face was a curious light. He still smiled, his gaze 
lost in visions afar. 

All her rancour fell away before the faith she divined. 
Impulsively she turned to him. 

"Rollo? You think I'm doing wrong?" 

"Yes." The answer was unflinching. "You're deceiv- 
ing yourself consciously. You're working on a false 
premise that your husband no longer cares for you, that 
you no longer care for him." He moistened his lips, 
Utterly dry, and went on in a husky voice: "Yet you 
know in your soul it is open to doubt. Passion mav 
be dead between you but the old link still holds good. 



AUTUMN 263 

that second love of married life: the *pot of honey on 
the grave.' " 

"And you think — I ought to return to him?'* 

'Tor God's sake don't ask me that!" His head went 
down upon his hands. "There are limits to a man's 
endurance." Muffled words came up to her. "Look into 
your own heart — count the cost, the compensation. I 
can't be captain of your soul." 

The taxi jerked up over the crest of the long and la- 
borious hill. They were out now on the open heath, 
aware of the wide vault of the sky. 

The wind whistled in their ears as they spun across 
the broad stretch with sun-browned grass on either side 
towards the far-off belt of trees. A subtle air of deso- 
lation, heightened by contrast with the town, hung over 
this outer fringe of country, devoid of human life. 

Deirdre voiced her restlessness. 

"I can't sit here — I want to walk. Stop him, please." 

The Squire obeyed. Mechanically he told the man to 
wait for them "near the pond." 

The chauffeur grumbled. 

"I've got a job, later on. I'd sooner you paid, sir." 

Mesurier smiled wearily at the obvious mistrust of the 
remark, and doubled his tip. 

"All right, we shan't want you." 

They turned down a side track over sandy uneven 
soil between the stunted, leafless bushes. 

It led them quickly out of sight of the higher level 
of the road behind a knot of twisted elders, where a 
trail of blackberry caught the eye with vivid leaves — the 
blood of Autumn. 

Deirdre broke the silence first. 

"To go 1)ack — ^to that old life . . ." She shivered and 
stopped suddenly. "I can't, Rollo. I don't love him." 

Mesurier's hands were tightly clenched. 

"But he loves you, in his own fashion." 

"And haven't I paid the price?" she cried. "Haven't 
I earned my liberty? Worked for him — lived for him — 
swallowed insult after insult! What more could a 
woman do?" 

"Face facts and speak the truth.** The harsh words 



264 AUTUMN 

were softened to her by the eafnest pleading of his 
glance. ''Give him a last fighting chance and clear 
your conscience utterly. You'll have to meet him, Deir- 
dre, face to face, and have it out, without fear and with- 
out pity — state your case honestly." 

He saw her flinch and set her teeth. 

"Deirdre, it's the only way. There's no salvation in 
half-measures. If you're afraid of Caradoc and the in- 
fluence of the old ties, it's a proof that your love is not 
wholly dead. You're living haunted by a ghost. It can 
only be laid by drastic action — by Truth, in fact, essen- 
tial Truth. No one can help you but yourself. By 
your heart's judgment you must stand." 

They had reached a little sandy patch sheltered by 
trees, where a wooden bench, scored with interlaced in- 
itials and names roughly carved by lovers, testified to 
stolen meetings and vows breathed in the joy of Youth. 

Deirdre sank down on it, obeying a sudden desire to 
rest. 

"You wish this?" Her hands passed restlessly over 
the seat, polished by the touch of Time. "Is it a test 
you're setting me?" 

"Perhaps." 

His breath quickened a little as he stood there watch-^ 
ing her face. All his manhood stirred in him and 
prompted him that now was the moment to gather her 
up in his arms and seal her his for evermore. 

He dug his heels into the ground, resisting the power- 
ful temptation. Something of the man's struggle was 
communicated to her senses. 

"It's the only way?" 

He nodded his head. 

"Very well. I'll see Mark, whatever happens . . ." 
Her voice was hopeless. "Just because you say it's 
right." 

After a moment she lifted her head and gave him a 
rather wistful look. 

"You're so strong. I've always known it. Strong 
enough to protect me against my own impulses. Why 
is that?" 

Mesurier smiled. 



AUTUMN 26s 

"God knows ! Perhaps because you're my ideal. One 
doesn't tamper with ideals at my age — ^they're too 
precious." 

He crossed the narrow space between them and sat 
down at the end of the bench. For the battle was 
over, fought and won. He felt limp from the reaction. 

"Am I forgiven for hurting you?" 

He asked it as simply as a child. 

"Yes. Of course. I should have known." But he 
felt there was still something wanting. 

After a little she spoke again. 

"What did you mean by *a pot of honey' ?" 

"Only those lines of Meredith — they seemed apposite 
just then." 

He repeated them courageously: 

"'A Idss is but a kiss now! and no wave 
Of a great flood that whirls me to the sea. 
But, as you will ! we'll sit contentedly, 
And eat our pot of honey on the grave/ 

He understands, doesn't he?" 

"Yes." Her hands were tightly clasped. Faint horror 
dawned in her eyes. 

"I couldn't do that — it's a mockery. How hard 
it is to see the way! I thought I'd put all this behind 
me, won my freedom long ago. But although it hurts, 
you've helped me, Rollo. What a friend you've been 
to me !" 

The past tense made him wince, and suddenly his pa- 
tience snapped. 

"I'm not a friend — I'm your lover." His head went up, 
his eyes blazed. "I think we've said enough to-day to 
have done with any conventional cant ! If you and Cara- 
doc should part, you're mine — I've earned a right to you. 
God knows, I've played fair. But when I think of your 
past life, the crass stupidity and neglect . . ." He 
stopped abruptly, startled in turn. For Deirdre's face 
was a revelation. Cheeks flushed, she leaned towards 
him breathlessly. 

"I thought ... I thought . . ." She could say no 
more ; shame seized her. 



266 AUTUMTT 

"That I'd changed r 

He flung back his head and laughed. "You silly child 
— you . . . utter dear! Deirdre" — ^he breathed her 
name as though it lay, a caress, on his lips — "you're like 
some wonderful flower to me, planted in cold and arid 
soil with never a chance of bearing fruit, pining for 
years in the dark. Why, you're only half a woman, 
sweet! Even now you don't know love. You stand 
there, just on the brink, like a child who dreads the 
first plunge. 

"But if I ever can take you, dear, into my garden 
and show you life as God and Nature planned it first, 
watch your petaled soul unfold, leaf by leaf in the 
warmth and light — ah!" He stretched out his arms 
to her; then with an effort let them fall. 

"Come, it's time we were going home." 

She rose without another word. 

"I shall see you to-morrow to say good-bye — just 
for a minute. After that I shall stay quietly at Weavers 
until I have a line from you." 

"I'll write at once" — she smiled faintly — "as soon as I 
know." He understood. 

They moved slowly up the path. Above them a cloud 
shut out the sun and a chill wind stirred the bushes 
with the crackling note of withered leaves. Beyond, 
on the high road, a brewer's dray rumbled along heav- 
ily, drawn by a pair of dappled horses, and the driver's 
voice reached their ears as he cursed one of them for 
stumbling. 

It needed this material touch to stir Mesurier from 
his dream. He was depressed unaccountably ; a prey to 
a dull foreboding. Yet Deirdre was there by his side; 
life should have been full of joy without this steady 
obsession of his. 

For all the way up the rough slope he had felt a 
shadowy third between them. 



CHAPTER XXV 

The drawing-room in Deanery Street was a double one. 
Folding-doors had originally divided the front section 
from the space behind, where the light was dim, through 
a single window shadowed by the neighbouring houses. 

Hyacinth had removed the doors and now a screen 
of Spanish leather stood at the junction of the rooms, 
one end against the wall. Behind this, across the angle, 
was a beautiful old French bureau sacred to its young 
mistress. It blocked the door that led to the stairs 
effectually and the former was hidden by a panel of 
faded tapestry. 

In this snug comer, tucked away from observation. 
Hyacinth sat on the morning after the luncheon party, 
pen in hand, lost in thought. Before her lay a diary, 
vellum bound, with a gilded lock and from time to time 
she jotted down an entry on the open page. 

This secret book was duly inscribed: 

"To Chris: a Record of Days of Exile." 
Beneath was a morbid youthful touch: 

"To be burnt, unread, in case of Death." 

The contingency, to her eighteen summers, seemed so 
remote that a faint smile curved her lips whenever she 
saw it. But it added to the solemnity of the one-sided 
correspondence. 

For the pages held daily letters to the far-off Chris, 
those same epistles she had promised her father she 
would not post. 

The first tentative yellow fog hovered over the London 
streets, weighing the air and muffling sound, but not 
dark enough as yet to warrant the use of electric light. 

Hyacinth, bending over her book, found a strange 

a67 



"1 



268 AUTUMN 

comfort in the sense of melancholy that the day in- 
duced. Sub-consciously she realized that the setting was 
perfect for thwarted love. 

"So you see, Chris/' she wrote sadly, "that I'm think- 
ing of you every minute. Some day, perhaps, you will 
read these words and realize what I have suffered during 
these weeks of 'make-belief,' of wearily playing a hope- 
less part." 

This ended the first period. After due thought she 
started again. 

If only I felt quite sure about Deirdre and Rollo? 
It's dreadful to be torn asunder between two loves, 
the old and new! For Rollo's always been to me the 
dearest of friends as well as fathers. And I can't leave 
him desolate, even for you, best-beloved. 

"I'm certain he's fond of Deirdre. They think, of 
course, that I'm utterly blind, a mere child, guessing 
nothing! As if Love didn't make one wise. Why, I 
saw it begin, months ago, one wet day in Weavers' 
woods, and effaced myself speedily, the very best of 
chaperons ! 

"What puzzles me now is if Deirdre knows ; faces it, 
foresees results? Is she truly in love with him? And, 
if so, what about her husband ? 

"It's an absurd situation. Here we are, you and I, torn 
apart as though our love were a mortal sin and disgrace, 
just because you're married, Chris; whilst Deirdre, 
bound herself, sees Rollo continually and he makes open 
love to her, not perhaps in actual words, but his eyes 
betray him at every turn. 

"Ethically, it seems to me that their case is worse 
than ours. They haven't the excuse of youth! More- 
over, they've both loved before. Oh, I'm so thankful, 
my darling Chris, that I met you first — the first man who 
ever dared to touch my lips — ^yours from the first breath- 
less vision: the knowledge of what you meant to me 
in the Spring wonder of the woods." 

She dipped her pen into the ink thoughtfully, with 
shining eyes. 

*T-ove seems to belong to the country, free and vital, 
a gift of Nature. In London it's fogged by a sense of 



AUTUMN 269 

intrigue — purely worldly consideration — ^a shadowy love, 
played like a game that has lost its zest through repeti- 
tion. 

"How is my dear friend Hotspur? Kiss his sleek, 
soft neck for me ! Do you know that Deirdre saw you 
once galloping home in the moonlight ? Ah, those happy, 
happy days. Will they ever return, beloved? . . . And 
the summer night's when Rollo slept and I crept out 
of our wooden lodge to meet you by the edge of the 
lake. You used to call me your little Dryad. 

"Do you sometimes now close your eyes and picture 
yourself waiting, breathless, for the rustling leaves and 
the furtive step, and then . . . Oh, Chris, how hard 
it is! 

"And the woodpecker's nest, our letter box ? The notes 
hid deep in the dried old moss, and the *patteran' to 
guide your steps in the glade where the three paths 
met? 

"Do you remember that thrilling night when Jevons 
took you for a poacher and you cut your hand getting 
over the wall? And the way you evaded Second-Best 
by lying down behind the rushes? Olga wouldn't let 
you alone — she knew ! But Second-Best was sure it was 
a fox or badger! I had to pretend to sprain my foot 
and get him to help me up the hill ancf you were so 
deliciously vexed because you saw me takmg his arm! 

"You were always jealous! What would you say 
if you were here in London now, watching me flirt 
with aged men who behave like boys, and weary youths, 
tired of all that makes life sweet? 

"How I hate them — these London men. Nature's 
leavings, city-bound, sapped by luxury and pleasure. Too 
severe? I see you smile, vigorous and keen yourself! 
Of course, one meets with a few exceptions. Yester- 
day " she broke off, head raised, listening. 

For Deirdre had entered the room beyond, hidden 
from Hyacinth by the screen. After her came another 
step and the sound of the door, softly closed. 

Rollo! Hyacinth blotted the page and closed the 
diary hurriedly. She was just rising to her feet when 
her father's voice made her pause. 



^o AUTUMN 

"Well, dear heart, it's good-bye. Until youVe seen 
Caradoc." 

"Dear heart!" Hyacinth's eyes widened at the ca- 
ressing words. 

"Yes, I suppose so.'* Deirdre spoke under her breath, 
wistfully. "I wrote last night to arrange a meeting. I 
expect it will have to be at the flat." 

"Why not here?" Mesurier's question evoked a 
faint sigh on her part. 

"No, I didn't even suggest it. It seemed as though 
I were afraid." 

"I wish, my dear, I could spare you this." Hyacinth 
caught the noise of a chair pulled up over the parquet 
floor. "But it wouldn't do, it would make things worse, 
the complication we want to avoid." 

"You mean ?" 

"That I should see him myself." 

"Heavens, no, impossible! He'd think " She 

paused. He finished the speech : 

"That I was the cause, the main cause of your de- 
cision to live apart. I couldn't pretend to be unbiassed. 
He'd guess at once that I loved you." 

Hyacinth, behind the screen, clasped her hands tightly 
together. 

It was true, then ? More than that, understood, since 
they spoke so freely — ^part of a plan framed between 
them. Hope vibrated in her heart. 

Suddenly her own position rose before her, con- 
founding her. She was playing the spy, eavesdrop- 
ping ! 

Her cheeks tingled. She glanced round nervously, 
seeking escape. But the only way was through the 
room where the lovers, unsuspecting, plotted. She rec- 
ognized that it was too late. She had overheard more 
than enough to arouse their suspicion of her conduct 
if she appeared upon the scene with an air of inno- 
cence. Better by far remain hid than court a hateful 
explanation. 

Her brain moved with lightning speed. Rollo had 
his train to catch ; she glanced at the clock. Ten minutes 
at most before the car would be at the door. Deirdre 



AUTUMN 271 

would see him off and then she could slip out silently 
and make her escape to her bedroom. 

Meanwhile, she would not listen. "I can't — it's mean, 
unthinkable !" She placed her hands over her ears and 
closed her eyes, aware of a glass in which as she turned 
to mark the time she had caught a glimpse of a dark 
head. 

But her thoughts whirled on tumultuously. Why was 
Deirdre so upset at the notion of meeting Caradoc? 
Did it mean an open rupture? If so, would she marry 
Rollo? 

Why, then, that set her free, relieved her from her 
childish vow, never to desert her father. 

A wife was better than a daughter. 

At this crucial summing-up, for the first time, she 
became jealous. 

Why should Deirdre supplant her? She swung be- 
tween the two loves — ^the adoration she felt for Rollo 
and the newer passion for Pontefract Then the in- 
sidious thought followed. Ethics did not count with 
them — ^the older pair — ^and yet they played so large a part 
in her own case. It wasn't fair! Her face darkened. 

She could feel her heart beating fast. It seemed to 
pound up in her ears where her palms were rigorously 
pressed, and produced a curious suffocation. For a mo- 
ment her fingers slipped apart, a purely physical act of 
grace, and in that moment a name slid over the screen, 
Pontefract." 

Now," she thought angrily, "it is my right — I shall 
listen!" 

She leaned forward across the table, scruples thrown 
to the four winds. 

Deirdre was talking quickly. 

"I meant to tell you yesterday, up on the heath, and 
then forgot. I had a little line from Chris, with some 
postcards which he promised me. He's gone back to 
the villa at Puy. He says he intends to stay there at 
present." 

"Yes. I saw him last week at Weavers. I thought 
It wiser. People might talk. So I asked him up to lunch 
at the Hall. With his wife — it made things easier. I 



« 
« 



272 . AUTUMN 

must say he befiaved well/' Rollo paused, then went 
on : "I suppose you'll think me an odd parent, but I 
can't help feelmg sorry for him. He's got the set lode 
of a man kicking hard against the pricks. He spoke 
once of Hyacinth, just as he was leaving me, three 
words: 'How is she?' but his face was like a soul in 
hell. It must be bitter work for him, to know we've 
got her here in town meeting all sorts of younger rivals, 
men more polished than himself. I had an absurd sud- 
den temptation to say, 'All right — still faithful !' There 
was a piteous look in his eyes, like a dog that's been 
kicked but remains loyal." Rollo groaned. "Oh, Lord! 
I don't know how it's going to end! You know he 
confessed in Dieppe, at that hateful interview we had, 
that he'd worked the whole future out: to give Mrs. 
Pontefract a right to divorce him — some other woman — 
one of those trumped-up aflfairs which satisfy our curi- 
ous laws. That is, where they concern the rich, who 
can afford to purchase freedom!" 

"But would she ?" Deirdre's voice was doubtful. 

"Yes, I think so," Mesurier answered. "He has a cer- 
tain hold on her through some letters written by her 
father. I think I told you that Chris was trapped into 
that marriage by a trick — a; silly midnight lark at the 
Grange. Qiris was discovered in her room by old 
Simpson and Mrs. Gage. To save a doubtful situation, 
which was innocent, in point of fact, they gave out that 
they were engaged and then the lady held him to it 
It was published in the local papers and noised abroad 
skilfully. Chris was up to his eyes in debt, and he 
knew he would have to relinquish his post if he broke 
free from the tangle and between one thing and an- 
other, including quixotic chivalry, he allowed himself to 
be tied down, to his and every one's r^^et. 

"In a moment of hysterical folly, a year after, Mrs. 
Chris confessed to her father the part she had played. 
The old brewer had his faults but he was honest to 
the core. Chris was in London at the time. His father- 
in-law wrote to him — a letter full of remorse and anger: 
a fine, manly apology and, what is more, he forced his 
daughter to enclose a line in a similar vein. 



AUTUMN 273 

"The whole thing was most imprudent, and added to 
the disharmony existing between the husband and wife. 
She crowned the unpleasant incident by an attempt to 
regain the letters, rifled Chris* private desk, and, in a 
fit of devilment, he placed the documents at his bank! 
There they have lain ever since, a perpetual secret bone 
of contention. I have no doubt that, used as a bribe, 
thev would help Chris materially." 

But you wouldn't let Hyacinth marry a man who had 
been divorced, with a stain on his name?" 

"God forbid. And yet," he sighed, "there's the child's 
happiness. If I place myself outside all this — my 
natural instincts as a father — my philosophy is sorely 
tried. Here are two young creatures, deeply in love, 
with no need to seek the approval of the world, care- 
less of conventional claims, wasting their lives in futile 
regrets. Who am I to stand between them, to act as 
the rod of destiny? If it is love, real love, as Time 
alone is bound to prove, why should I break my daugh- 
ter's heart to uphold the claims of respectability? 

"Chris as we knew him and Chris divorced is the 
same man essentially. His marriage was a mockery, 
himself the victim of worldly wisdom. Is that wisdom 
good enough, apart from what is known as 'ethics,' to 
warrant the suttering of Hyacinth, to condem her, per- 
haps, to a single life ? 

"For if she's a Mesurier she'll take love hard; we're 
not half-hearted! I've been watching her keenly these 
last days. She's true to Chris — it's no girlish fancy. 
I'm afraid it goes pretty deep — that time and absence 
will not cure it." 

His voice changed. "Is that the car? I must go. 
It's harder every time to say good-bye, a physical wrench. 
You'll write?" 

"Yes." 

"As soon as you can?" There came a stir of chairs 
pushed back and a whisper from Deirdre; then the 
Squire spoke again: 

"I shall sleep down in the woods to-night — tramp the 
glade. Will you dream of me? And, Deirdre, one last 
word: Dont fear to speak the truth. Cast behind 



274 AUTUMN 

you that weak excuse — ^thc words bom of sheer temper. 
He never meant to let you go — ^you're not free — ^you must 
face that But you can be, if you really wish it — ^if you 
think you can live without regrets. State your case 
openly. That you gave him all and in return met with 
indifference and neglect, were starved for love, bruised 
by his anger! Try and temper mercy with justice, 
reversing the old formula. A generous woman is 
sometimes the prey of compassion and apt to deceive 
herself. But don't confuse the issue, dear, by consid- 
ering me in the case. I shall understand, whatever hap- 
pens. All I want is your happiness. God bless you." 

There came a pause, broken by a tap at the door. 
Then the solemn voice of Charles: 

"The car, sir. It's a quarter to twelve." 

"I'm coming. Has he fetched my luggage?" 

"Yes, sir. It's turned to rain. Manvers asked if 
you'd Uke the hood?" 

"Heavens, no!" Mesurier spoke impatiently and the 
man retreated. 

A whisper followed, then the sound of steps slowly 
crossing the landing and receding down the stairs out- 
side. 

Hyacinth drew a breath of relief. Now was her 
chance! She stole out, round the screen, and gained 
the door. Here she paused to listen again. A murmur 
came up from the hall. 

"Where's that child ? She promised me she'd be back 
in time to say good-bye." 

"I know she meant to," Deirdre answered. "I ex- 
pect she's been detained somewhere. She went out shop- 
ping with Lisette." 

"I can't wait I've cut it too fine." 

Hyacinth dared not linger now. Nervously she 
skimmed upstairs, fearing a creak of the well-worn 
boards, reached her room and in a panic turned, breath- 
less, to lock the door. 

Safe ! Her hands were tightly clenched, the beautiful 
eyes full of scorn. Of all that had passed, a single phrase 
lingered dominant in her mind. 

Chris, her Chris — she choked with anger — treated as 



AUTUMN 



275 



a malefactor; patronised, asked to lunch, his behaviour 
"approved" by this other pair of unauthorised secret 
lovers — his desperate need of her summed up in a sen- 
tence that pierced her passionate pride, "Like a dog 
that's been kicked but remains loyal 1' 



i» 



i 



CHAPTER XXVI 

Caradoc replied from Bath. He wrote in pencil ex- 
plaining the fact by an allusion to his neuritis which had 
"almost crippled" his right hand. He was down there 
taking a cure, work being "obviously out of the ques- 
tion." 

The doctor ascribed his malady to "general run-down- 
ness and mental worry." 

He left the cause of the latter symptom unexplained, 
but the tone of the letter filled the hiatus. It was ill- 
used and slightly aggressive. He was "quite willing^' 
to talk things over, though he "couldn't understand in 
the least" what she meant by a "future arrangement!" 

He suggested that she should come to Bath for a 
few days accordingly. It "isn't half a bad place; it 

might amuse you for a week — cooking good ** I>eir- 

dre smiled. The inducement was so typical 

If not, he would be in town for a board meeting on 
the 6th. Would she lunch with him at the flat ? Better 
make it two o'clock. Unless she would rather meet 
him halfway, "Say the Berkeley—cheener.*' Anyhow, 
she could decide. 

The "new cook" was a success. He forgot if he'd 
told her "about Marie?" He had brought her back 
from Le Touquet, where she had cooked for a friend 
of his at a villa. "Makes an excellent omelette." Also 
her niece, a girl of eighteen. Between them they ran the 
flat 

"So you see," he wrote, "when you return you can 
turn Day into a lady's maid. I thought you'd like this 
arrangement — some one to shop and trot about with." 

"A cavaliere servante, in fact, of the wrong sex, to 
relieve Mark!" Deirdre thought rather bitterly. "He 
never liked her and in this way he kills two birds with 
one stone." 

He wound up : 



AUTUMN 277 

"Send me a line to the Pump House Hotel. 

''Your affecte 

"Husband." 

She answered the letter very briefly, regretting that 
she was engaged for an early lunch on the day in ques- 
tion, but would come to the flat at three o'clock. 

The correspondence had brought with it the old cloud 
of depression: the sense of how far apart they were 
in their outlook on life and their convictions. Could 
pity breach the gulf? 

And suddenly Cousin Maddie's words recurred to her: 

"You English people are so fond of patching up. 
As if love could be mended like china!" 

She was puzzled herself at the subtle change which 
had taken place in her mind of late. Where was the 
old confidence she had felt in resolving the situation? 
Why did she shrink from the interview, from meeting 
Caradoc face to face? 

No twinge of conscience had troubled her on the 
day he had appeared at Weavers; no hesitation in her 
plan to cut adnft from him forever. Why had London 
opened up the whole question once again, blurred her 
vision and brought a strain of pity into their relations? 

She sat there at her writing table, her chin propped 
upon her hands, staring out through the double panes 
at the dingy wall opposite. 

Was it because — she stirred, restless, but pursued the 
thought to the bitter end — ^her own heart had betrayed 
her, no longer empty, filled with Rollo? Was she to 
blame if her whole soul had leaped out to meet its 
fellow; sure at last of a true mating, a sympathy of 
mind and body? 

It followed that she wasn't "free." Rollo had said 
so, emphasized it. But she could be, if she chose ! Why 
did she hesitate to cut the Gordian knot? Was it . . . 
shame? Her pride revolted at the thought, but rigidly 
she worked forward. 

This pity then which she felt for Mark, this almost 
impersonal shred of affection, was based on the sense 
of her own failings: a knowledge of secret treachery! 



278 AUTUMN 

Had she been faithless to her vows? But marriage 
involved both of them, was mutual in its obligations. 
Mark had failed her on that count ; yet he in turn evinced 
no pity. He reserved it for himself alone, his own 
loneliness and discopifort, the barest shadow of all that 
she had suffered patiently for years. 

If she went back — through a sense of duty? 

"No!" She shuddered at the thought, conscious of 
physical revolt. "I couldn't! ... I'd sooner give up 
Rollo." 

Ah ! . . . The truth broke in on her. This was what 
tied her, hand and foot. This Autumn love, sweet 
as the last lingering blossom on the roses, filled with a 
grace unknown to Spring. 

Time paused in his ruthless course, and a mirage of 
her youth rose up» fair and dazzling, a city of Hope, 
in the dreary desert of middle age. 

She could not banish it from the picture. 

An open definite rupture with Mark threw her into 
her lover's arms. This weakened the main argiunent: 
that all she sought was "personal freedom." 

Dimly she saw the choice ahead if she still preserved 
her old ideals, refusing to tamper -with her conscience, 
and she shrank from the sacrifice involved. 

Loneliness, crueler by far than any she had suffered 
yet : feeling the years weigh down on her ; knowing that 
RoUo across the gulf set by herself was ageing too; 
that their golden hour of happiness had passed — never 
to return! 

Could she bring herself to this? Was her character 
strong enough? Would life be worth the struggle? — ^this 
negation of love for the sake of her soul. 

"Afterwards?" Her face went down onto her arms 
in utter despair. A sudden wave of religious doubt rose 
up, flooding her. Who could be sure of an "after- 
wards" ? 

Here were light and sound and touch — ^personal iden- 
tity — ^thought, reason, sympathy. 

Was it sane to stake so much on a future life when 
the body was dust, scattered to the winds of heaven? 
Where was the spirit, and where the reward? 



AUTUMN 279 

On the other hand, the guerdon of earth — the happi- 
ness she had never known. 

It was Rollo's creed: Happiness. A force that 
warmed the world around, was centred in Nature, po- 
tent, free: Paganism in modem guise. 

Hyacinth believed in it. Where had it led her? To 
the verge of what was known as a mortal sin. IVas 
sin only a name ? Could love — a great love, that was of 
the spirit as well as the flesh — condone sin? Deirdre 
wondered. 

There was the case of the Magdalen who had "loved 
much" — had been redeemed. Like many another tempted 
woman, she found consolation in the thought. 

Then her honesty prevailed. Across her mind like 
a silver dart flashed the solemn warning: "Sin no 
more." 

When once a soul had realised the Christ message, 
had humbled itself to repentance and had been forgiven, 
there could be no slipping back lest "worse evil" befall 
the sinner. 

There was no '*via media," but two paths — one 
crooked. If she had earned the right to freedom by 
years of patient faithful submission to the wayward 
moods of her husband and took her stand with him on 
this point she could not include in her vision a fu- 
ture with another man. Not if she were true to her- 
self. 

It meant the ultimate sacrifice. 

Far ahead there lay the chance that Death might solve 
the grim enigma, that she might be free legally, but she 
shrank, sensitive, from the thought She could not, 
dared not, count on itl 

Besides, she was thirty-five. Ten, fifteen years would 
see her beauty spent; the radiant charm of her still warm 
vitality ebbing mto a weakly flame. 

She thought of her mother, bending down towards 
the glass anxiously, the stick of lip-salve in her hand, 
those flaccid and discoloured lips. 

And then of Rollo, endlessly young, Rollo in the prime 
of life. 

Time was kinder to his sex. Grey hairs, she thought, 



\ 



28o AUTUMN 

would 5uit him. A wistful smile curved her mouth 
as she pictured him with his gipsy face and his brilliant 
eyes still undimmed. 

No, it was flow, if she willed it, or never! 

There came the sound of an opening door. Hyacinth 
swung into the room, Olga close upon her heels. 

"You there," she broke off, "day-dreaming?" 

Her voice was light, but the laugh that followed was 
touched with a note of hardness strange to her. 

"I thought rd tell you that Cousin Ralph has decided 
not to stay to lunch." 

^'Cousin Ralph?" Deirdre turned, shading her eyes 
with her hand. "That means, I suppose, that you've 
quarreled ?" 

She studied Hyacinth's flushed cheeks and air of tri- 
umph with inward misgivings. 

"I'm sick of Ralph !" the giri flashed back. "A boy 
who pretends to be a man!" She pushed Olga away 
from her side. "No, you're not to lick my boots 1 D'vou 
hear, Olga ?" She stamped her foot. "You're like Ralph, 
intolerably meek, and won't take 'no' for an answer. 
You think that's the way to make me love you? You're 
a fool then for your pains I" 

The graceful creature slunk away with an upward 
glance of mute reproach. 

Hyacinth, unrelenting, flimg herself down upon the 
sofa and dragged off her hat with a reckless gesture. 

"There — ^that's better — ^my head aches. I don't think 
Ralph will try again. I told him the truth — ^that I loved 
Chris." 

"You didn'tf Deirdre rose to her feet, aghast at 
this new indiscretion, staring down at the childish face, 
utterly impenitent, beautiful even in its anger. 

"Well, why not ? You like the truth. At least you've 
often told me so. Besides that, he tried to kiss me." 
Her voice shook. "That was the limit!" 

Her temper ran down on the last word and flickered 
out into mischief. 

"I wish you could have seen his face! He looked as 
though he'd swallowed the moon. Then he began to 
lecture me, just as if I were a child, and wound up by 



AUTUMN 281 

abusing Rollo. Called him a 1)rilliant sopjiist.' What 
is a sophist ? Of course, I knew it was something hate- 
ful from his voice. But I can't get nearer than Sopho- 
cles." She wrinkled her brows in perplexity. 

Deirdre could have shaken her. She realised the con- 
sequences of Hyacinth's impulsive folly — the secret, so 
jealously guarded, flung in a moment of temper into the 
face of a wounded and indignant youth, with the added 
sting of rivalry. 

"Olga and Ralph suffer alike the penalty of loving 
you." Her voice was dry purposely. 

"I didn't ask them to," said the girl. "They can 
neither of them take a hint ! Rollo says there ought to 
be another commandment on that point. But that Moses 
thought it wiser not. He'd suffered from them all his 
life — hints, I mean — about Pharaoh's daughter!" 

She laughed, pushing back the mass of pale gold hair 
off her forehead. 

"I told Ralph it was a secret. At present," she added 
carelessly. 

"And he promised to keep it?" Deirdre felt a faint 
sensation of relief. 

"Swore by all his naval gods" — Hyacinth was still flip- 
pant — "Neptune, Nelson," she ticked them off on her 
long white fingers, "and Patterson ! I think that was the 
name of the man who wrote 'Sea Pie,* wasn't it? 
Ralph's rather like Aunt Byng when he gets hung up 
on the family tree ; also Absalom !" She giggled. "There 
are 'things the Mesuriers can't do.' To fall in love is 
one of them ! With a married man — ^that's understood — 
or a married woman, I suppose ?" 

Her eyes, clear and innocent, under their long gold- 
tipped lashes, met Deirdre's troubled gaze with a shadow 
of impertinence. "But Rollo and I are different. We're 
children of liberty I" She laughed with a rising note of 
excitement. "You can't expect me to be immune from 
hereditary influences. I'm Rollo'is daughter." She nod- 
ded her head. "I've been brought up like a gipsy. 
D'you remember those lines of Chesterton's?" She be- 
gan to recite them, purposely changing the words to suit 
her meaning: 




t. 



282 AUTUMN 

•*In the heart of the— Weavers' woods, where the eyes of 

the — ^Bjrngites bum not. 
And the wild hawk goes before me, being free to return and 

roam, 
The hills have broad untroubled backs and the tree-tops turn not 
To spy on me as I pass, and I know that Tm at home." 

"That's my true setting — ^also my parody I With all 
apology to the man who could think out that gorgeous 
touch, which seems to glitter with the East: 'Women 
veiled in the sun or bare as brass in the shadows. And 
the endless eyeless pattern where each thing seems an 
eye.' And— oh, yes — d'you remember?" She was off 
now, caught by the glamour of words — ^in very truth 
her "father's daughter." " 'Only to walk and walk and 
stun my soul and amaze it. A day with the stone and the 
sparrow and every wonderful thing.' " 

She glanced up at Deirdre, watching her under frown- 
ing brows, and added very sweetly: 

''Would you like some more?" 

"No, I wouldn't. I'd like to shake you I" 

"Do !" The girl leaned forward, half-repentant, half- 
rebellious. "Good for both of us — I guess f Observe my 
new American accent. I made a man so mad last night — 
a Mr. Van Pump, I think he was called — ^by asking him 
to translate into English a string of compliments. They 
don't really like it, you know, although they say we have 
the accent and that theirs is the pure original brand cap- 
tured by the Pilgrim Fathers. I think, perhaps, it's like 
Chianti — can't stand the sea passage. Aunt Byng cor- 
rected me. I gather Van Pump is 'some' parti! Oh, 
Deirdre, I'm mad, but I'm very unhappy — ^that's the 
truth I" 

Wisely the elder woman took the olive branch out- 
stretched to her. 

"Poor child!" She slipped down on the sofa by the 
culprit's side. "But I don't like to sec you heartless. 
That's not my little Hyacinth." 

She drew the slender figure close and at the contact, 
the sense of comfort, the girl gave a tired sigh and lifted 
her face for a kiss. "I can't help it" — she cltmg to Deir- 
dre — "it's not my fault I want Chris. I feel when 



AUTUMN 283 

Ralph and other men make love to me that it's an insult. 
I can't explain, but it hurts my pride. And then it's all 
so strange in London. Only last night, coming back from 
Aunt Byng's " She paused for a moment. 

"Yes?" Deirdre prompted softly. "Lord Courthope 
saw you home?" 

"No, he didn't; that's just it. He said he would, but 
on the way he asked us to put him down at his club, 
somewhere in Pall Mall, so 1 was left with Reggie Bol- 
sover. And then he thought it would be fun to go on 
to a place he knew where there was dancing — a sort of 
club. It was getting late and I told him so. Reggie 
suggested we could say that Lord Courthorpe had made 
up a party and taken us off to the Savoy. It seemed 
such a silly tale to tell I So I said outright that of course 
I'd go, as I love dancing, but if I did I shouldn't make 
a secret of it. That Rollo wouldn't mind at all — there 
was no need to tell a lie." 

"Well ?" Deirdre tried to keep an impassive face, but 
in her heart she was furious with Bolsover. Where 
and what was this club ? 

"Then" — Hyacinth looked indignant — "he turned quite 
huffy and said he'd thouaht I was a 'sport.' What did 
he mean? I rather liked him before that and I'd told 
him all about the fun we'd had one night in Madrid, 
Rollo and I, and he'd roared with laughter! He made 
me feel as if somehow I wasn't worth talking to — just 
sat there looking glum until the car stopped at the 
door." 

"I shouldn't worry, dear child. He isn't worth think- 
ing about." Deirdre stroked the golden head lightly 
pressed against her shoulder. "He had no right to ask 
you to go alone with him to that dancing-place. He 
knew that and felt snubbed when you refused to keep 
it a secret.^ I'm sorry now I wasn't with you." 

For Deirdre had declined Mrs. Byng's invitation, 
coolly worded, to dine that night, believing that Hyacinth 
was safe in the masterful hands of her aunt. She felt 
vexed, too, with Courthorpe, divining that the worldly- 
wise old peer had left the pair alone to further his mat- 
rimonial schemes. The girl's simplicity had saved her 



284 AUTUMN 

from a compromising situation, but Ddrdre guessed that 
she felt hurt by the soldier's surly attitude. 

For youth is haunted by a fear of the opinion of the 
world, shy in the consciousness that childhood lies so 
close upon its heels. 

''Ralph wouldn't have done that. I hope you didn't 
wound the boy too cruelly? I knew he loved you. He 
told me so down at Weavers." Her voice took on a 
pleading note. "Won't you write to him. Hyacinth? 
Just a line and make it up. Why didn't he see you 
home last night?" 

Hyacinth smiled, mischievously. 

"He wanted to. As a matter of fact. Aunt Byng 
had arranged it. But then Lord Courthorpe had his car 
and when we all came out of the door, I just ran away 
from Ralph and scrambled in after R^;gie. For fun I — 
but they wouldn't let me go. Ralph made rather a 
scene ; and you know what L^rd Courthorpe is — he takes 
everything as a joke — ^and he simply shouted at the 
chauffeur : 'Drive ahead I' and there we were — ^Aunt Byng 
simply furious I" 

She laughed again at the recollection. 

"Ralph came round to scold me this morning. That's 
how the whole thing began. After all, it's too absurd — 
a cousin is only a sort of brother. I shouldn't dream of 
marrying him — even if it weren't for Chris. I'd sooner 
marry Second-Best I" 

Deirdre could not help smiling as she thought of that 
gnarled and earthy creature. 

"Then, with such a choice of lovers you can afford to 
be merciful. Send Ralph a little word of comfort Now 
— at once." Her voice was coaxing. "You can use my 
pen — as a great favour I" 

Hyacinth rose unwillingly. But on the way she stooped 
to press a Idss on the patient head of Olga. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

There are certain days on which it seems as if some 
mischievous sprite to<^ hold of the slender fabric of 
one's existence and pulled it both ways at once. 

In the housewife, beset by petty cares smilingly ignored 
by men — whose steadier machinery of business is sub- 
ject to ruder jars, but less dependent on the moods of 
the service employed day by day — a certain fatalism is 
bred, based on the old superstition that misfortune is 
apt to be a twin. 

November the fifth was a t)rpical instance. The serv- 
ants overslept themselves and, descending late to scam- 
per through their early duties, developed irritable tem- 
pers. The cook, aware of her unscrubbed floor, was 
tart, and Deirdre had to summon all her tact to avoid 
a scene. Charles slipped down with a loaded tray and 
broke a decanter and three glasses, rounding off the 
tragedy by cutting his thumb on the shattered remains. 

Hyacinth had elected to stay in bed for breakfast, 
pleading fatigue from a lengthy concert overnight. 
Lisette collapsed with a "migraine'^ and finally the steady 
prop of the whole house. Day herself, received a fateful 
telegram, sununoning her to her sister's death-bed. 

'nie sick child had passed away on the eve of the new 
baby's arrival and the gardener's wife had never rallied 
from the double shock of birth and death. 

"I wouldn't go, mum," Day protested, "but there's 
nobody else. And all those children — with Fred's mother 
too old to mind them, and half crippled with rheumatics. 
Somebody's got to lend a hand to see them through the 
funeral; but Til not stay longer than I can help — once 
she's decently put away." 

Deirdre, who divined the grief underlying Day's prac- 
tical manner, was hunting up in the A. B. C. the quickest 
train to the West. 

285 



286 AUTUMN 

**Can you be ready in half an hour? Kate must cut 
you some sandwiches. You had better take my travelling 
rug — and some brandy. FU see to everything. Run 
upstairs now and pack. Poor Day! I'm so sorry." 

"That's all right, mum," Day choked. "We all of 
us have to go some time." 

She was off, her lips pressed together, digesting this 
homely philosophy. With the odd comfort that anger 
brings in a moment of sorrow, she laid the blame vin- 
dictively upon "that Fred." 

"Didn't ought to have had another — ^and him out of 
work and all I But there — men . . ./" She slammed 
her door, anathematizing the whole sex. 

Deirdre saw to the few arrangements, relieved to find 
that a serious trouble had blotted out the morning's 
temper and that Kate wore a kindly smile not unmixed 
with awed triumph. 

"I knew that something were coming, mum. I heard 
the death-knocks in the night and couldbn't sleep. That's 
why we were all a bit late getting up to-day." The last 
was a veiled apology and Deirdre accepted it, swallowing 
a desire to laugh. 

"I see. Well, accidents will occur— even with alarum 
clocks! Has Charles returned from the chemist yet?" 

"No, mum. Can I be of use?" 

"I don't think so, thank you, Kate. You might get a 
cup of soup. It would warm Day before her journey — 
there's the mutton broth from last night By the way, 
as we're dining out this evening, two of you can get off. 
You can arrange it among yourselves so long as Lisette 
is in to dress us." 

"Thank you, mum." Kate beamed. She watched 
Deirdre run upstairs and, still pensive, turned to tiie 
loaf, starting on the sandwiches. 

"Now I wonder" — she buttered a slice — ^"just 'ow it's 
going to end. Charles is certain it's a case of a new 
mistress at the 'all." She flicked off a knob of butter — 
"Well — it might be worse for us I" and leaned heavily 
on the knife. "But then, what about 'er 'usband ?" For 
gossip was rife in the servants' quarters. 

"I suppose it means a divorce one day. Weavers 






AUTUMN 287 

won't take it kindly, and I shall ask for higher wages. 
One can't be put upon for nothing I" 

The unsuspecting heroine of this drama in the "upper 
circles" had made her way to Hyacinth's room mean- 
while and was knocking at the door. 

"May I come in for a moment?" 

She heard a stir and the sound of a drawer slid sharply 
into place; then the girl's tardy response: 

"Yes, do. Is any&ing wrong?" 

Deirdre entered the room. 

"It's poor Day " she began, and broke off, surprised 

in turn. Hyacinth's bed was littered with dresses and 
beside it lay a cabin trunk on which the girl was perched, 
smiling, still in her dressing-gown. 

'Whatever are you doing — packing?" 

'Yes." Hyacinth laughed gaily. "Don't look so 
horrified! I'm putting awa^ a few things I don't want 
— that's all. This room is so small after Weavers, 
simply crowded out with clothes, and I thought if I kept 
this box outside it would give me space to turn round. 
I haven't a single drawer left in which to put ribbons 
and laces — let alone love-letters !" 

Deirdre felt oddly relieved. 

"And you need a big one for those?" She smiled 
back at the pretty face framed in its ruffled simny hair 
which was drawn into two heavy plaits falling over her 
slender shoulders. "You look like Marguerite this mom- 
mg. 

"Sitting on my coffer of pearls?" Hyacinth laughed. 
In the ripple was a faint ring of excitement. Her cheeks 
were flushed. Shadows lay beneath the over-bright eyes. 

Deirdre noted this. 
I hope you were resting?" 

'So I was — ^till a crash sent me flying out of bed and 
Lisette rushed in to say that Charles had committed 
suicide in the pantry. Then Day, like a restful spirit, 
appeared on the scene and corrected the statement — that 
he'd cut not his throat but his thumb! Lisette looked 
quite disappointed." She laughed again. "How is the 
victim ?" 

"Bearing up with dignity and gone to the chemist to 






288 AUTUMN 

be bandaged. I was afraid that there might be still a 
fragment of glass in the cut. Poor Day is in trouble 
now." 

She sat down on the edge of the bed and recounted 
the latest catastrophe. Then, as Hyacinth sympathized, 
Deirdre's thoughts went off at a tangent. "You re never 
going to pack away this?" She lifted the folds of a 
chiffon dress. "You've only worn it a few times and it 
will crush horribly." 

To her surprise the girl coloured. 

"No; it's going back in the drawer. I'm just sorting 
everything — it's much easier in the end." 

"Why don't you let Lisette do it ?" 

"Because she's simply a wail incarnate — goes about 
with her hand pressed to her forehead claiming the 
Almighty. 'Ah — mon Dieu !' " Hyacinth mimick^ the 
shrill voice wickedly. "It's bad enough to have tooth- 
ache oneself without details of her 'migraine f 

'*Have you toothache ? I'm so sorry. Why didn't you 
tell me before ? And you shouldn't be bending over that 
trunk, sending all the blood to your head. Do get back 
into bed. I'll soon straighten your room for you." 

She began to gather up the dresses. 

"No, don't! I'm all right. It does me good to stir 
about. Thanks awfully all the same. But I've nearly 
finished — it won't take long. I think it's a new wisdom 
tooth." She smiled. "That ought to comfort you! 
Isn't my face a wee bit swollen?" 

Deirdre laid down the armful of frocks and crossed 
to where the victim sat. 

"No, I don't think so." She bent nearer. "Is it tender 
outside ?" Gently she passed her fingers down the curve 
of the smooth velvety cheek where a few faint freckles 
of summer lingered on the clear and transparent skin. 

"A little — ^nothing to worry about." Hyacinth drew 
back quickly. "Don't bother about me, but go and look 
after poor old Day. I shall get up when I've finished 
this." 

"This" looked pretty comprehensive. It seemed to 
Deirdre that the girl's whole wardrobe was scattered 
about the room. 



AUTUMN 289 

"I wish you'd be wise and let me do it." H3racinth 
frowned obstinately. "Would you like some menthol 
to rub on your face? Or is there anjrthing else I can 
get?" 

"Nothing. You're neglecting Day." Deirdre saw it 
was better to leave her. 

"Very well — but I'll come back once Tve seen about 
her cab. You must get well for the party to-night 1 I'm 
glad Lord Courthorpe arranged dinner instead of supper 
— it won't be so late — ^and you've got that dance at the 
Ritz to-morrow." 

"Yes — I suppose so." Hyacinth yawned, stretching 
her arms above her head. "Pleasure's an exhaustive 
business — ^no wonder I'm cutting a wisdom tooth. 

"London life is like a fair 
From merry-go-round to show and booth. 
It lines the face and thins the hair — 
No wonder I'm cutting a Wisdom Tooth!'' 

"There, how's that for impromptu verse? Will vou 
tell Day to come to me before she starts?" Her face 
went grave. "D'you think, Deirdre, she'd be hurt if I 
gave her a present or paid her fare?" 

"You can try if you like ; I'm afraid it's hopeless." 

Deirdre lingered at the door. 

"/ know!" the girl sprang up. On the cabin tnmk, 
forgotten by her m her quick movement, lay a book, 
vellum-botmd, with a gilded lock, screened before by 
her dressing-gown. 

"I'll give her that black coat and skirt that you said 
was far too old for me! It will just do for the funeral. 
I'll say that RoUo hated it. You back me up?" She 
was at the cupboard getting it down and she paused to 
glance back over her shoulder. 

"You think you ought to part with it?" Deirdre was 
torn asunder between her desire that Day should have 
it and economv on^her charge's behalf. "It's almost 
new " she hesitated. 

"All the better!" Hyacinth laughed. "It's cheating 
charity to give a garment already worn out — ^it should 
caver a multitude of sins, not exhibit them through holes 



290 AUTUMN 

and patches! Besides, I shan't want it, nazv *' she 

stopped dead, her back still turned to the waiting figure 
at the door. "I mean," she spoke hurriedly, "I've got 
my grey one and my brown — ^more clothes than I can 
wear. Hullo, here's a packet of toffee in the pocket — 
what a find I Walnut toffee, too — Fuller's. Have one?" 
She wheeled round. 

"No, thanks." Deirdre smiled happily. What a mere 
child it was! 

As she turned to go she saw the girl pop a sweet into 
Tier mouth, scnmching it like a young squirrel. ^ 

"That toothache can't be very bad," she decided as 
she walked across to warn Day of the time and the 
present awaiting her. 

It provoked a further train of thought : pain, neuritis, 
Caradoc. 

Another letter had reached her that morning, written 
more firmly, and in ink. 

"I find the trains won't land me in town early enough 
for this company meeting and I must be there — about 
those shares that fool Gibbs put me into. They've been 
going down steadily ever since the day I bought them. 
So I m coming up to-morrow night and shall sleep at the 
flat. If you change your mind and can manage lunch 
after all, ring me up Saturday morning." 

Deirdre, reading it, had frowned. 

"He thinks all women change their minds! Mark 
in his attitude towards my sex belongs to purely mediae- 
val days. They would have suited him far better. A 
wife kept in her 'proper place' — videlicet, the Round 
Tower, patiently adding, stitch by stitch, to her mother- 
in-law's tapestry the legend of the family prowess and 
clad in stiff brocaded gowns waiting on her lord at his 
pleasure — handing him the stirrup cup, and bathing his 
wounds after battle! The one mild excitement of life 
watching Mark fly his falcon from a barred window in 
the tower. Though I doubt," she added thoughtfully, 
"if he'd run to brocade; more likely insist on my weav- 
ing my own garments myself. He would 'put his foot 
down' at that, a superfluous extravagance." 

She drove Day to Paddington and contrived in the bus- 



AUTUMN 291 

tie of the station to buy her ticket and pay for it, before 
the maid guessed her intention. 

"We can settle up on your return. Send me a line 
when you have time." 

She stood there watching the train pufF out with an 
odd pang of loneliness. To-morrow would mean so much 
to her. She would miss Day's comforting voice, her 
silent help and sympathy, on her return from the inter- 
view. For Deirdre foresaw a fight before the last link 
was snapped. She had no fear of Mark's temper, yet the 
situation would play on her nerves. 

At last she knew her own mind. She would never 
go back to her husband. And this meant farewell to 
Rollo. 

Turning away from the long platform she remembered 
a list, that lay in her bag, of groceries and household 
sundries she had promised to order at the stores. So 
she crossed to the Underground and was swiftly carried 
to Victoria. 

She made her way through that labyrinth of depart- 
ments and was cutting across a section devoted to sad- 
dlery when a voice hailed her shrilly by name. She 
turned. It was Mrs. Hardwick, 

So far fate had favoured her singularly in avoiding 
those friends and acquaintances of the old life with 
whom explanations might have been awkward. But this 
time there was no escape. The well-dressed handsome 
woman with her henna-tinted glossy hair advanced smil- 
ing, hand outstretched. 

"What a surprise I I suppose you're up for the day — 
shopping — from the country?" 

Deirdre let the suggestion pass. She knew that the 
speaker rarely waited for an answer to her volley of 
questions. 

"And how charming you are looking! Tell me — how 
is your poor husband? He dined with us a fortnight 
ago; so sad — that dreadful neuritis I And he seemed 
so flourishing at Touquet, quite the life and soul of the 
party. We all hoped that you would come. But perhaps 
you were wise— dreading the sea! We had a perfectly 
awful crossing. I tried 'Stickit' — that new thing— but it 



292 AUTUMN 

wasn't any earthly use. I wish they'd build the Channel 
Tunnel. It's one of those remedies, my dear, that cure 
every one but oneself I Although I shouldn't have stooped 
to drugs, with my belief in Christian Science. Which 
reminds me, have you been to that place in Mount Street 
where they undertake to reduce your weight in a fort- 
night by means of their artificial horses?" 

She paused for breath and Deirdre laughed. 

"No, I've never heard of it" Off went Mrs. Hard- 
wick again. 

"It's wonderful — ^but such a sight I All those painfully 
fat people being jolted up and down in saddles worked 
by machinery. You trot, canter — la haute ecole! — and 
come away simply aching! But there's nothing like it, 
the doctors say.^ Of course a perfectly natural cure! 
But now I'm going in for riding. A friend of ours has 
just become the M. F. H. of the East Down Harriers 
and I hope to hunt with them next season. I'm here 
to-day about a saddle — a new one — ^and a kind man has 
promised to meet me and proflFer advice. Such a won- 
derful place — ^the Stores! One always nms across 
friends. Oh, my dear, I must tell you," she saw Deir- 
dre glance at the clock and laid a delicately-gloved hand 
on the other's arm to delay her, "there was a Swedish 
woman we met at Touquet — had a villa there — used to 
bathe — ^a divine figure ! Your husband was a great ad- 
mirer! In fact I think she left him her cook as a gage 
d'amour/' She laughed shrilly. "And one day we were 
talking about London shops and I mentioned the Stores 
— she'd never been here — ^and she said, looking rather 
scandalised: 'Oh, that's an improper place — ^not so? 
Where your married ladies meet their lovers.' Of course 
I simply screamed with laughter — ^the poor dear respec- 
table Stores posing as a 'rendezvous'! So I asked her 
where she got the impression and she answered, 'From 
your English novels. It's always there that the heroine 
and hero arrange their elopement I thought it was not 
comme il faut to be seen there by oneself?' " 

"So I'm really saving your reputation?" Deirdre sug- 
gested smoothly. "I'm afraid I shall have to desert you, 
though, as my shopping list is wofully long." 



AUTUMN 293 

She held it up as an excuse. But Mrs. Hard wick had 
no idea of taking a hint. Like Moses, she found ten 
commandments more than enough! 

"Oh, don't go for a minute; it's so long since we 
met. You're looking so well — I can't believe you're in 
the country for your health?" 

So this was Mark's subterfuge to account for her 
absence, Deirdre thought. 

"A quiet life suits me best." She resented the need 
for equivocation but feared Mrs. Hardwick's reckless 
tongue. 

"And your poor husband a bachelor! We do our 
best to cheer him up." There was faint malice in her 
eyes, closely set, of a hazel hue. "He tells us he's paint- 
ing your pretty flat to welcome you home when the doc- 
tor allows it. Madame Svendson — his Swedish friend — 
helped him in the choice of papers. She's at Bath now, 
for a cure, but returns to London in time for Christmas. 
You will have to be careful bye and bye that they don't 
meet at the Stores!" Again her artificial laugh rang 
through the long room. "But you're far too clever to 
be jealous! How is the writing — I mean the painting? 
I ewuy you — such a great talent! I suppose you have 
time for it in the coimtry?" 

Deirdre was getting desperate. 

"Don't talk about time! I must fly " She held 

out her hand. Mrs. Hard wick had raised the lorgnette 
which she wore on a jewelled platinum chain, and was 
peering beyond her towards the door. 

"Must you? Which way d'ydu go?" Cleverly she 
steered her victim, still talking, towards the entrance 
facin|f the one she had scrutinised. 

Deirdre, thankful to escape, submitted to these open 
tactics; but once she had reached the next department 
and Mrs. Hardwick had clasped her hand fervently, 
assured her again how "young she looked" and wished 
her good-bye, she gave reins to her curiosity and, making 
a tour of the narrow room, paused again on the thresh- 
old of the one she had been driven from. 

She could see in the distance Mrs. Hardwick advanc- 
ing to meet a tall man who stood examining a saddle 



294 AUTUMN 

with an air of indifference. It was Captain Meredith ! — 
the husband of Deirdre's dearest friend. 

A wave of anger flooded her. Here was a man whom 
all the world recognised as a bad husband, only saved 
from certain divorce by his wife's devotion to her children 
and her fear that this might shadow their lives. For 
Laura had talked it over with her barely ten days since, 
thankful to find one faithful friend to whom she could 
tmbosom her troubles. 

What was the use of being faithful? 

Laura had merited the best that life could offer to a 
woman and had reaped neglect and constant insult to- 
gether with the amused contempt of the class to which 
Mrs. Hardwick belonged. 

Here was a pregnant instance of that which befell a 
wife who placed duty before pride and egotism, suffered 
in silence — ^and closed her eyes to the sign-post pointing 
the path to freedom! 

Was it worth such a sacrifice? — when the real' culprit 
escaped scot free, was welcomed, feted and forgiven! 

The hint of gossip so shrewdly conveyed concerning 
Mark and his Swedish "friend" rankled now in Deirdre's 
mind. It added to her determination. Her husband would 
soon console himself! A bitter smile curved her lips. 
Mark would be free to indulge his fancy for a pretty 
face and pass on as soon as satiety claimed him. Whilst 
she, herself ? She shrugged her shoulders, knowing that 
little leniency would be shown to the conduct of the wife. 

Society was mediaeval, too, allowing all licence to the 
man, but shrewd to detect feminine weakness. For the 
law of England was man-made — ^in man's interest from 
start to finish! 

Would her sex's revolt, already at work in a thousand 
ways, ever result in a new overwhelming weight of opin- 
ion to balance the tampered scales of justice? 

Dimly she tried to pierce the future and see a world 
where women worked and earned an equal wage with 
men: were independent, owing nothing, free and able 
to choose their mates on the terms of frank co-partner- 
ship; where love did not enter into the bargain as the 
price of a woman's daily keep, but became a gift to be 



AUTUMN 



295 



withheld or offered in freedom of soul and body. 

Did the storm, now rolling up to relieve the tension of 
the air — this feminist movement ofttimes weakened by 
merely hysterical demonstrations — mean the dawn of a 
golden day for womanhood, the world at last awake to 
the fact that the mothers of men deserved an equal recog- 
nition ? 

Her eyes shone at the stirring thought Herself a 
rebel to the core, she marched on, head high, unconscious 
of admiring glances. 



CHAPTER XXVm 

She arrived home late for lunch to find Hyadnth lan- 
guidly facing a basin of bread and milk. 

"My poor child !" Deirdre viewed this change in the 
menu with compassion. "Don't tell me that your tooth- 
ache's worse?" 

"Much — and I don't feel any wiser!" The girl bravely 
tried to joke. "Still it enlarges one's sympathies. I 
know now what babies suflFer! I'm devoutly thankful 
that all one's bones don't develop in the same way! 
Fancy the agony of waiting to 'cut' an elbow, or a knee 
— to feel them throbbing into place!" She gave an un- 
certain little laugh. "Sit down and have some lunch. 
It will do me good to see you eat !" 

Charles came in with the hot dish, his hand bandaged, 
and Hyacinth smiled as the door dosed on his solemn 
face. 

"Poor Charles has been 'cutting a thumb' — I don't 
wonder he looks ill-used. This place is fast becoming a 
creche ! Now give me all your news. Where have you 
been and whom have you met?" 

Deirdre guessed that the girl wished to shelve the dis- 
cussion of her ailment. 

"I packed Day oflF to Devonshire — she was so grateful 
for your dress — ^then went to the Stores, did some 
shopping and met a woman I dislike. A typical social 
butterfly — artificial to the core. That's my news, in 
tabloid form, and I think I deserve a glass of wine!" 
She poured it out as she spoke. "It's quite refreshing 
to look at you after that meretricious beauty." 

"Must have been a Tainted Lady'; it's a common 
genus of butterfly — the sort that R^[gie Bolsover would 
be after with his little net! Which reminds me — I've 
rung them up and said I wouldn't go to-night I caught 
Lord Courthorpe at his club and he said he could hear 
my tooth gnashing! He was really awfully nice about 

396 



AUTUMN 297 

it, is taking his niece in my place and looking forward 
to seeing you." Hyacinth smiled very sweetly. 

"Oh, what a pity ! Why didn't you try to get me out 
of it as well ? Fd far rather remain with you." Deirdre 
looked taken aback. 

"Why? I shall go to bed early, and I didn't want 
you to miss the fun. That's whjr I fixed it all up while 
you were out." She nodded wiseljt 

"I wish you had waited." Deirdre sighed. "Still I 
quite understand, my dear, that you didn't feel up to a 
long evening. Do you think we had better go to the 
dentist this afternoon and ask his advice?" 

"In my pram, with my rattle?" Hyacinth became 
flippant. "No, of course not. I'm all right. But I 
think we'll cut those two 'At Homes' and settle down to 
a good read over the fire — with some buttered toast — 
and say we're out to all the world." 

"Yes, it sounds nice and cosy. And the new books 
have come from Mudie's." 

With the knowledge of what lay before her the next 
day, Deirdre welcomed a quiet afternoon, and they spent 
it very happily with the added joy of discovering later 
that Mr?. Byng had been one of the callers, politely 
turned away by Charles. 

At last Deirdre left the girl, absorbed in her book, 
and went upstairs to dress for the early dinner. When 
she came down she paused for a moment and peered 
through the open drawing room door. 

Hyacinth was leaning back, her hands clasped behind 
her head, lost in day-dreams sweet but sad, as the 
curves of her mouth testified. A sudden pity flooded 
the heart of the older woman. She guessed full well 
that the girl was thinking of her lover — the absent, un- 
forgotten Chris. 

She came in quietly and bent over the dreamer. 

Is the toothache any better?" 

'Yes — no!" H)racinth jumped. "I didn't hear you. 
How nice you look I" Her voice was wistful ; tears were 
not far from the beautiful blue-green eyes. "Deirdre — 
are you fond of me?" ^ 

"Fancy asking such a question!" Mrs. Caradoc 



"] 



298 AUTUMN 






stooped and kbsed her. ''You know I am. Fve a great 
mind to throw over this party now/' 

"Oh, you mustn't!" A look of alarm succeeded the 
girl's mournful smile. "It wouldn't do — they'd be of- 
fended — ^and I don't mind being alone." She curled her- 
self sideways in her chair, and glanced over Deirdre's 
dress. 

"I wish you'd wear my pearls to-night. Do?" She 
unclasped the shining row that himg in a loop from the 
slender neck. "I'd like you to keep them — ^if you wilL 
They're mine to give, they were Grandmamma's." She 
fastened them round her friend's throat "Some day — 
when I'm not here — ^you.can use them as a rosary. Not 
for prayer" — she shivered slightly — ^"just loving 
thoughts . . . from Hyacinth." 

Darling, I couldn't!" Deirdre smiled lovingly. 
They're far too precious." She fingered the beautiful 
even string, each pearl perfectly matched both in size 
and quality; then, seeing the girl draw back, childishly 
disappointed, "But if you like I'll borrow them, just 
for to-night and be a fine lady !" 

"Yes." Hyacinth wound her arms tightly round the 
bare neck, still youthful, white and smooth, of this 
tenderest of chaperons. 

"You ought to be oflF " her voice faltered. "Kiss 

me!" 

Deirdre felt her lips pressed with almost passionate 
fervour and responded gladly; for of late a little cool- 
ness had lain between them. 

The girl drew back with a deep sigh which was peril- 
ously near to a sob. 

"How silly I am !" She sprang to her feet and brushed 
a hand across her eyes. "I've been reading a horribly 
morbid book and I think it's got upon my nerves. Plus 
toothache!" She smiled wanty. "Now off you go and 
have a good time — ^there's the taxi at the door. Give my 
love to Lord Courthorpe and — don't be too nice to Reg- 
gie !" 

"I certainly shan't?" Deirdre nodded. "I don't care 
for that young man. Now mind you go to bed early. 
I simply hate leaving you!" 



AUTUMN 299 

The party fell rather flat. At least, so it seemed to 
Deirdre. The dinner, rushed through at top speed to 
allow of innumerable rich courses, had been delayed by 
Reggie's sister who arrived late — and unrepentant! 

Bolsover was plainly bored and his uncle's heavy gal- 
lantries aimed at Deirdre under the eyes of the super- 
cilious younger pair became each moment harder to bear. 
"Clorinda's Curls," as a play, fulfilled the inanity of 
the title and during the lengthy interval the younger man 
slipped away, returning late in the second act, a minute 
after the audience acclaimed the re-appearance of his 
charmer. This coincidence ruffled the host and was chal- 
lenged by the delinquent's sister and Deirdre felt that 
subtle discomfort which comes from sharing a family 
secret 

^ She was thankful when the frayed ends of the ^oft- 
times mislaid and impossible plot were drawn together 
triumphantly in a swaying, shouting Bridal Chorus. The 
favourite, wreathed in orange blossoms, supported by 
the hoarse tenor and the comic man of the piece, smiled 
once more before the curtain with a last flash of the 
fjamous teeth and the audience rose to fight their way 
towards the next entertainment — supper. Courthorpe 
saw Deirdre home, tired and a little distrait himself; 
for which — had he known it — his guest was thankful, 
but delivered a last compliment gallantly upon the door- 
step. 

With a sigh of relief she let herself in and mounted 
the steep stairs on tiptoe. 

Mindful of the maid's headache, she had told Lisette 
to go to bed, and nobody was sitting up — the shadowy 
house wrapped in slumber. Outside Hyacinth's door 
she paused and listened a shade anxiously. 

"Asleep, I hope." She passed on and entered the 
adjoining room. 

Slipping out of her opera cloak she stood for a mo- 
ment before the glass admiring the beautiful rope of 
pearls offered her by the generous girl. Then her eyes 
fell on a letter propped against a trinket box. She tore 
it open hastily. A look of horror succeeded the tired but 
tranquil expression of her face. 



300 AUTUMN 

For Hyacinth wrote in her square bold hand : 



« 

Si 



Deirdre, dear: 

When you find this I shall be upon the sea, leaving 
you, although I love you, for one who means still more 
to me. 

"Will you ever forgive me, I wonder? — ^and believe 
that I hated deceiving you ! 

"Dear, it was the only way. I couldn't bear it any 
longer. It's always been RoUo that's stopped me before, 
but now that I know that you care for him and that he 
loves you, the last link's snapped. Be good to him — 
you're all his world ! At times I've been a little jealous. 
Rollo used to be wholly mine. But now I see it is 
all for the best ; one of 'Nature's compensations/ 

"Chris needs me more than Rollo — ^all alone, misunder- 
stood, eating his heart out at Puy. I simply cannot live 
without him. 

"And why should I?^ Life's so short and all this 
shadow-dance in town is a sheer waste of happiness. 
That clever Frenchman spoke the truth: Remorse is 
better than vain regret ! 

"It's no use your following us; just stay and look 
after Rollo. We shall leave Puy immediately for a land 
of sunshine and sapphire skies — Spain, Morocco, chi lo 
saf — the true setting for our love. 

"Deirdre, dear, think of me as happy — ^at last fulfilling 
myself. And tell Rollo not to grieve — ^to practise his 
philosophy: see that it all falls into the picture, a part 
of our old gipsy life of open air and candid thot^^ht, 
supreme scorn of the world's opinion and faith in the 
guiding hand of Nature. For why should Chris suflFer 
still from a dead impulse of quixotry? His marriage 
was never more than a chain locked by a tyrant round 
his feet. Love has no use for rusty fetters. It lies 
beyond the law's pretensions — in itself a gift, not a 
wage — freely offered, freely shared. 

"The only regret I feel now is for this last day — 
deceiving you. I never had toothache — ^invented it as 
an excuse to stay behind. I feel ashamed in confessing 
this, but I'd rather you knew the whole truth. 



AUTUMN 301 

*'I shan't write to RoUo yet I give him to you with 
both my hands. Comfort him. I know you can! He 
worships you as his guiding star. 

^'Please, Deirdre, keep those pearls — ^my last gift. Do 
they mean tears? Perhaps. . . . But tears may come 
from joy as well as from a sense of sorrow. 

"Some day try and forgive your little friend who runs 
away yet leaves a comer of her heart behind — for you 1 

"Hyacinth." 

"P. S.: I told the servants that I was travelling by 
the late train down to Weavers I I had a telegram from 
Ralph begging my pardon for something he'd said and 
pretended that it came from Rollo. I thought it would 
make your way smoother." 

Stunned by the shock, Deirdre walked slowly across 
to the girl's room and turned on the electric light. 

There lay the dainty bed — untouched ! Upon the floor 
tissue paper was strewn around the empty space lately 
filled by the cabin trimk. 

All the beautiful tortoise-shell fittings with their fine 
gold monograms had vanished from the dressing-table 
and the wardrobe gaped, shorn of dresses. 

It was true, then : she had gone ! 

The tired woman sank on a chair where a pair of silk 
stockings dangled, disconsolate and overlooked, and 
buried her face in her hands. 

In that still hour when the weary Earth seems to 
pause upon her axle and dying men flicker out, when 
human vitality ebbs low and despair rules the sleepless 
brain, Deirdre saw no glimmer of light; but failure — 
failure everywhere. ... 

At last she raised her tear-stained face. She must stir 
herself — awake to action. 

Flung down, half open, on the writing-table was a 
Bradshaw. The sieht brought her to her senses. She 
must follow the girl, at all costs ; wire Rollo — a hundred 
things ! 

She went across to the washing stand, filled the basin 
with cold water and dipped her face deep in it to dispel 



302 AUTUMN 

this dull drowsiness. She rubbed her cheeks with the 
hard towel, shivering still from the icy impact, and gath- 
ering up the railway guide, she went back to her own 
room. Here shedding her finery, wrapped in a warm 
dressing-gown, she looked up the boat train. Only two ; 
night and morning. She must catch the one at ten next 
day. 

She wrote out a telegram to the Squire, wording it 
carefully, with a knowledge of the village gossip. 

"Going Dieppe morning boat please call Deanery 
Street for letter as soon as you reach town." 

Rollo would read between the lines and follow her in 
hot haste. Purposely she omitted to sign it. She turned 
up the Weavers train once more. No — impossible ! Even 
by motor he could not arrive in time to join in her 
swift pursuit. 

Then she settled down to the letter, accusing herself of 
negligence: the half-packed box. Hyacinth's tears — 
Why had she not divined the truth? At last it was 
done and the girl's enclosed. She sealed it, using a signet 
ring on which was engraved Caradoc's crest; and sud- 
denly she remembered her husband and the interview 
fixed for to-morrow ! 

Well — she must telephone to him. Despite the cloud 
that hung over her she had a fugitive sense of respite. 
Another day! It seemed to draw her, nearer once 
more to the man she loved. 

Finally she packed a bag with the few things she would 
require and set the little alarum clock for six, with a 
smile as she saw the time. 

Sleep, evading her at first, fell on her spirit before 
dawn ; a dreamless sleep from which she awoke startled 
by the whirring bell. 

For a moment she lay there, wondering. 

Where was Day? It was still dark. Then memory 
returned and she flung back the eider down. Bravely 
she faced a cold bath, dressed herself in quiet clothes 
and caught one of the first busses which set her down 
at Charing Cross. She sent off the telegram, and, fresh- 
ened by the frosty air, went into the station buffet and 
drank a scalding cup of coffee. 



AUTUMN 303 

By the time she returned to Deanery Street the house- 
hold was astir. Charles, in shirt-sleeves, stared at her 
when she ordered breakfast for eight o'clock. She offered 
no explanations. Lisette was voluble and suspicious. 
She tried to detain Deirdre with the account of her 
young mistress' hurried departure overnight. 

"I know. She left a note for me." Deirdre cut her 
short. "Also the wire from Mr. Mesurier. He will 
probably be here this morning." 

Satisfied, later on, that the servants had sat down to 
breakfast, she went to the telephone and called up Cara- 
doc. 

A sleepy voice came back to her : "Yes. Well ? Who 
is it?" 

"It's Deirdre. I'm extremely sorry, but I can't come 
to the flat to-day." 

"Oh I" She heard his annoyed grunt and pictured the 
handsome darkening face. "Why not? What's hap- 
pened ?" 

"I have to go out of town." 

"Where to?" He spoke sharply. 

She hesitated; then made up her mind. 

"To Dieppe, by the morning boat, on business con- 
cerning the Mesuriers." 

"But I've come up purposely to meet you. I thought 
you meant what you said!" The typical, offensive re- 
mark stung her into instant revolt. 

"Naturally. I do still. I can't explain on the tele- 
phone, but I'm bound to go. It's my plain duty. I will 
write to you on my return." 

"You're taking Day?" It seemed to her that the ques- 
tion rang with suspicion. 

"No." She disdained explanation. 

"I should like to know your address. Unless this 
charming mystery " 

She cut him short, at the end of her patience. "It's 
^Chateau de Puy.' " and rang oflF. 

At half-past nine she was in the cab, leaving strict 
injunctions to Charles to deliver her letter to the 
Squire. 

"I am going down to Weavers now, but I may miss 



304 AUTUMN 

him on the way. I shan't be back to sleep to-night Tell 
the driver St Pancras." 

At the corner of North Audley Street she leaned out 
of the taxi window. 

"Did he say St. Pancras? I thought so. How stu- 
pid ! It's Charing Cross." 

'*Right, mum." The chauffeur grinned and wheeled 
round in the proper direction. 

At last she was settled in the train with her primitive 
luggage and travelling rug, staring down at the morning 
paper, her mind too busy to take in the print 

So the long day wore on. The crossing was rough, 
but Deirdre, a good sailor, remained on deck, battling 
with the rising wind. Instinctively her spirits lightened, 
braced by the air stung with salt from the g^eat rollers 
churning up, white horses on their crests. She thought 
once of Mrs. Hardwick and the famous "Stickit" — in- 
fallible cure that could not prevent a sickly hue from 
invading that well-preserved face — ^and laughed aloud. 
A sailor, passing, glanced at her approvingly as he hur- 
ried along, basin in hand, to earn a well-deserved tip I 

Slowly the land came into sight and the sea grew 
smoother as they swung into the protected harbour with 
the quaint old town on either hand. It wore the cold 
deserted look of a holiday place out of season — a mere 
junction now for Paris — shorn of its bathers and fisher- 
women. 

She got through the Customs quickly and peered roimd 
for a Puy bus. The porter explained that out of the 
season it only met the boat when ordered. He bundled 
her into a rattling £acre, and they started over the cob- 
blestones and across the long wind-swept bridge towards 
the outskirts of the town. 

All the way, up the zig-zag hill and along the open 
road on the cliffs, where the full force of the gale reached 
them, Deirdre anxiously watched the few and slow con- 
veyances they met. Was she too late? Had the lovers 
started? 

When the sea was blotted out on their left and the 
bare withered fields gave place to a wooded valley, Deir- 
dre thought, for the first time, of her appearance. She 



\ 



AUTUMN 305 

drew out the mirror that formed a part of her hand-bag, 
and smoothed back her hair, in the quiet of the sheltered 
lane, tying her motor veil anew. Villas now were scat- 
tered about, most of them with that dead look which 
the tightly closed green shutters impose upon a deserted 
dwelling. 

At last they came to the little bay, with its shingly 
beach, and, perched above, the huge hotel, devoid of life, 
like a stranded monster cast up by the sea. The driver 
noisily cracked his whip and swerved round the curve 
at the entrance, bringing his pair of ponies back on their 
haunches at the closed door. 

Deirdre got down, glad to stretch her cramped limbs, 
and made her way to the bureau. 

"I want a room." She glanced up and saw a tele- 
gram in the rack. "Is that for me — ^Mrs. Caradoc?" 

^'Oui, Madame/' A sleepy clerk reached it down and 
pushed forward a heavy book. "Will you sign your 
name ?" 

He reserved the wire until she had done so. She 
broke it open eagerly. 

"Coming over by night boat — don't fret — ^love. 

"ROLLO." 

The relief of it sent the blood to her cheeks. She 
looked up, her eyes shining. 

"I shall want two rooms. Will you see to my luggage ? 
I have to call on a friend in the village, but shall be back 
in time for dinner." 

"Would Madame like the first floor? We only keep a 
single wing open during the Winter months. There are 
two good rooms facing south." 

"Those will do." She turned to go. "Where is the 
Villa Nicolette?" 

The clerk instructed her, with a smile which broadened 
as she left the hall. 

TiensI He watched her run down the steps, his Gal- 
lic heart alive to adventure. ''Encore une belle dame qui 
demande Monsieur Pontefrac^t" 



CHAPTER XXIX 

The Villa Nicolette stood back from the main road up a 
steep bank where the withered grass lay, long and rank, 
and a pair of poplars, grotesquely clipped, waved bare 
stumps against the sky. 

Deirdre, summoning all her courage, rang the bell 
after some search in the tangled and neglected creeper, 
which hung in festoons from the verandah and added to 
the general air of decay and wintry desolation. 

Pontef ract answered it himself. *'Oh, it's you ! Will 
you come in ?" He stood aside for her to pass. 

The visitor, plainly nervous, followed him into the 
sitting-room with a comprehensive glance around fhat 
untidy little den, poorly furnished, the drab walls cov- 
ered with old sporting prints ; the table — ^which filled the 
greater part — littered with books and comic papers, pipes 
and a mass of fishing tackle. 

Here was no dainty nest for a bride, but a bachelor's 
undusted sanctum. 

"Won't you sit down?** He gathered up an oil-skin 
thrown across a chair and pushed it towards Deirdre. 

*'No, thanks." She stood there rigid. "Where is Hya- 
cinth?" she demanded. 

"Quite safe." His voice was abrupt 

"I should like to see her." 

"Afraid you can't." He leant up against the fireplace, 
looking down at Deirdre with his hazel eyes, in which 
lurked amusement tinged with an odd pity. 

"Look here, Mrs. Caradoc, don't run away with a false 
idea. You must imderstand. She is safe — as safe as 
when she left your care." 

"You mean that?" Her heart was beating rapidly 
with fear and hope. 

"On my honour." His face was g^m. "I say f" He 
sprang forward and caught her with an outstretched 
arm, as he saw her sway upon her feet "Damn! I 

906 



AUTUMN 307 

mean Fm awfully sorry. Sit there — I'll get you a drink." 

He had steered her into the arm-chair and crossed the 
room towards a cupboard, from which he produced a 
bottle and glass before she had realised her collapse. 

/'It's nothing." She pulled herself together. "I felt 
giddy — ^the crossing perhaps." But she drank the rather 
acrid wine, which he offered her, thankfully. 

"I'm sorry I've run out of brandy." Pontefract was 
apologetic. He saw that her colour had returned and 
proceeded further to ease her mind. 

"About Hyacinth, you know. She turned up here in 
the dead of night. I'd no more idea that she was coming 
than the man in the moon. You believe that ?" 

"Yes." She gave him a grave smile. 

"Thanks. You see, I promised Rollo to hold no form 
of communication with her for the next three months. 
You might have knocked me down with a feather! 
Luckily I'm here alone — ^no servant — just grubbing 
along. So no one knows except ourselves, and, I sup- 
pose, Rollo by now?" 

"Yes. He's coming — the night boat." 

"Good Lord!" Pontefract groaned. His face was 
certainly not that of a happy and triumphant lover. H 
was heavily lined, as if with pain. 

Deirdre was recovering fast from her first shock of 
relief and wonder. The interview was so unlike all she 
had pictured and rehearsed. 

"Hadn't I better see her?" she asked. 

He shook his head with the hopeless shrug of the Broad 
and finely-balanced shoulders. 

"I pi^omised H)racinth that you shouldn't. If you 
came! She didn't believe you would. But I quite ex- 
pected you to follow, hot foot and full of rage" — he gave 
a slow, sardonic smile — ^"and wrest her away from the 
villain !" 

Then, catching her quick glance, pitiful and under- 
standing, he broke out impulsively : 

"I say, will you help me ? I'm in the devil of a mess !" 

"Tell me everything, and I will, if I possibly can." 

"Well, it's like this." He drew up another chair, and, 
straddling it, leaned forward, his arms folded on the 



3o8 AUTUMN 

back, his dark face thrust towards her, the brows meet- 
ing in a frown. 

"I meant to play fair. I swore to Rollo Fd let her 
alone for the stated time. After that it's my own busi- 
ness. Meg can divorce me. (I'll see she doesh Then 
my poor Sttle girl turns up, upsetting the whole apple- 
cart!" He gulped down something in his throat. "Lord! 
It's been jolly hard to resist her, without breaking her 
heart as well! But the fact is" — a dull flush showed 
through the bronze of his skin — ^**I'm altogether too fond 
of her to let her ruin herself for me. / couldn't! She 
doesn't understand. Not fair play — a child like that! 
She'd have the whole world against her. I've never 
believed in all that bosh that Rollo spouts about conven- 
tion and 'making one's own rules of life.' It's a theory 
that won't wash ! So long as we could keep it secret it 
didn't seem to matter much, though I'll own it was pretty 
dangerous ! But a public scandal — ^to take her away, as 
she begs, on an endless honeymoon? I'd be a brute to 
trade upon her childish generosity." 

He passed a hand across his forehead. 

''She'll have to go back. It's a dead cert — ^and the 
hardest nut I've ever cracked." 

. "Bless you !" Deirdre leaned forward and caught him 
by his tense arm. "D'you know what I think? You're 
worthy of her." Tears were standing in her eyes. 

"Oh, I don't know about that. I don't set up to be a 
saint !" He looked thoroughly ashamed, as only an Eng- 
lishman can, of virtue. "It seems a matter of common 
sense — just looking ahead, and all that. 

"Mind you" — his voice held a vibrant note — ^"I don't 
make promises for the future. My notion is to get 
divorced— on a trumped-up story — as soon as I can. 
Then go out to the Colonies and buy a farm — I've been 
saving up — and as soon as I see my way clear, come home 
and marry her. That is, if she'll wait for me," he added 
somewhat gloomily. "The trouble is, just now, that the 
child feels she has burnt her boats and that I hang back 
— ^that I don't love her. Lord! — it's been . . . damn- 
able! 

"To soothe her down, I promised her that if you came 



AUTUMN 309 

(she swore you wouldn't!) you weren't to see her. 
She's happier since. But she vows she'll never return 
to Weavers." He rose, restless, to his feet. "I wish to 
God that RoUo were here, now, and would take her 
straight away. It's been a bit trying, you know, having 
her here all to myself and pla)ring the part of heavy 
parent. Too much like the real thing!" 

"A cruel test/* Deirdre nodded. "Some day she'll 
understand, and then" — her face expressed her mean- 
ing — ^"I don't think you need fear that the Squire will 
misjudge the present position. He's not lacking in gen- 
erosity! Of course, she'll have to go back with him. 

But perhaps ** She paused. The door behind was 

swung open. Hyacinth stood there. 

Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes brilliant; she car- 
ried her head very high. 

She went straight across to her lover and leaned up 
against his shoulder, defiantly, with an air of possession, 
as though to claim him before the world. 

"Chris prophesied you would come." She addressed 
Deirdre hardily. "But / thought you were my friends 
I see now I was mistaken." She chose her words with 
precise care. "Perhaps RoUo sent you here ?" She gave 
a short, scornful laugh. "You ought to be more S3mi- 
pathetic — with your own secret love affair." 

Deirdre, taken aback by this most unexpected on- 
slaught, stared at the beautiful angry girl in silence. 

Said Hyacinth: 

"Do you think I am blind? That I haven't seen you 
and Rollof Chris stared, himself amazed at the unex- 
pected turn of affairs. The girl went on : "And you're 
married— older, too, by far, than Chris; with a husband 
who loves you — ^believes in you ! Yet you come here to 
lay down the law and forbid us our chance of happiness." 

Her clear young voice rang with contempt. For the 
P^irl was wounded to the core by the failure of her cher- 
ished plans — ^this strange unwillingness on the part of 
Chris to run away with her — ^and the last drop in her 
cup of sorrow and childish humiliation was the presence 
of another woman to witness her discomfiture. 

But Deirdre could not stand unmoved this open chal- 



3IO AUTUMN 

lenge to her pride. She rose to her feet, confronting the 
girl. 

'*You have no right to speak like that — purposely con- 
torting facts." She tried to control her rising temper, 
but her blue eyes cried it aloud. "You're judging me by 
your own standard. If you've guessed so much you 
might at least have guessed the truth — the whole truth. 
I love Rollo with all my heart." Chris marvelled at her 
courage. "And I'm not ashamed to tell you so, because 
I know that my conscience is clear. I had left my hus- 
band long before I met either of you at Weavers, through 
his own fault and with his knowledge, and now — if I can 
— I am going to make the separation a legal one. But 
when I do" — ^her voice grew dull — "I shall never see 
your father again. That is the diflFerence between my 
love and yours — it includes self-respect." 

Hyacinth bit her lip. Temper could not blind her 
eyes to the other's quiet dignity, nor warp her reason at 
this juncture. Moreover, dimly, she saw the gulf that 
lay between their characters. 

"Oh, well" — she felt her lover press her arm wam- 
ingly — "in any case I've been loyal to you." Desperately 
she changed her tactics. "I might have made things dif- 
ficult . . . but I didn't . . . and" — her mouth quivered 
— "I wanted you ... to be happy, too. I told you 
so . . . in . . . my letter." She twisted round with a 
little sob and buried her face on her lover's shoulder. 
"Chris !" Her arms stole round his neck. 

Deirdre's anger evaporated at the sight of the child's 
unhappiness. 

"Hyacinth!" Her voice was gentle, but the girl only 
clung the closer to the troubled man, who bent his head 
and kissed the cheek salt with tears. 

He dared not interfere in the matter, torn between his 
passionate love and a man's discomfort at feminine 
wrangles. Moreover, he still felt amazed by Hyacinth's 
significant speech. Was there a secret understanding 
between the Hall and Four Comers r 

Deirdre moved towards the door, but on the threshold 
paused again. 

"Hyacinth! I didn't mean to wound you, child. I 



f • 



AUTUMN 311 

had to speak! Don't turn away from me." Uncon- 
sciously she held out her arms. "I'll forgive you all you 
said just now. Of course, you couldn't understand." 

Then, as the girl gave no sign, Deirdre, as a last 
chance, questioned the face of the man. 

Pontefract shook his head. His lips framed the word 
"RoUo." Here was their only hope. His glance trav- 
elled on to the clock. 

She went out, groping her way down the narrow pas- 
sage that smelt of smoke into the dusk of the Winter 
evening ; seeing still before her eyes the young couple so 
deeply in love : the man's face wracked with passion and 
the bent, despairing, golden head. 

Life was an endlessly cruel affair. She clasped her 
hands tightly together, and, as if in mockery of her pain, 
a speech of Rollo's recurred to her. 

"I've never denied her anything that wasn't against 
the laws of health." 

And her own reply, strangely prophetic : 

"But some day she must learn denial. It can't be 
roses all the way." 

She saw ae^ain her lover's face, with the old enthusias- 
tic light, and heard his voice, deep and strong, setting 
forth his favourite creed : 

"It ought to be. It's man's fault if he chooses to 
gather only the thorns." 

"Chooses!" It seemed in the darkening light as 
though a phantom of Summer days rose up and laughed 
at her. 

Before she mounted the hotel steps she turned for a 
moment and looked at the sea. A dark and angry bank 
of clouds was blotting out the primrose light left behind 
by the sunset. The water, iron-grey, was flecked with 
silvery crests and the waves broke vindictively upon the 
beach to grind back over loosened shingle. Far away 
towards Dieppe lights twinkled from hidden masts and 
the wind came scuttling along the cliffs as though it fled 
before the storm. ^ 

"Rollo will have a rough passage ; but he'll like that — 
it will fit his mood. I must go and meet him." She 
gave a sigh of relief. "Thank God, it's better news," 



312 AUTUMN 

For she felt a deep respect for Chris. He had come 
safely through the fire, resisting a powerful temptation, 
upheld by that code which seems to be part of the Eng- 
lishman's heritage — ^the ethics known as "fair play." 

Practised in every grade of life on the field of games 
from early school days and adhered to as a fetish, this 
impulse worthily to accord every chance to an adversary, 
disdaining the use of trickery, became a habit of the race, 
unbreakable in the hour of trial. It strengthened the 
soul of the nation. 

Kiplingfs lines recurred to her on **muddied oaf and 
flannelled fool," and she felt a quiver of impatience as 
she passed into the empty hall. If sport could achieve 
this self-control it was finer than culture as a means to 
train the young for the battle of life, taking the sting 
from defeat. 

To fight to the last, facing the foe — ^the thought acted 
as a tonic. For she herself was fighting hard ; the old 
conflict of flesh and spirit. Was there a virtue, after all, 
in sacrifice — 2i power to be gained only at the price of 
sorrow ? 

She knew then with a sudden flash of insight — one of 
those revelations that come from afar like a "still small 
voice" — ^that she stood there a finer woman than the one 
who had fled from suffering to the sanctuary of Four 
Comers. The consciousness of spiritual gam soothed 
the trouble of her mind, where Hyacinth's words still 
rankled, and her strained nerves relaxed their tension. 
She was "playing fair" — was true to her race. . . . 

A buxom French chambermaid greeted her upon the 
landing, glad of the advent of a g^est and the chance of 
tips in the empty season. With a flourish of keys she 
opened the door of the room where Deirdre's luggage 
lay and switched on the electric light, aware of the gloom 
that shadowed the place. 

"Madame would like some hot water?" ^ 

"Madame" agreed, with a smile. She would also like 
to dine in her room. A sleepy waiter came up with the 
menu. 

At last Deirdre was alone. She went across to the 
open window for another look at the stormy sea and 



AUTUMN 313 

stepped out on the balcony which commanded the nar- 
row wind-swept bay. But beyond the faint line of the 
surf and a dark patch of outstanding rocks she could 
not distinguish water from sky. The November day had 
slipped into night. 

The air was raw, charged with moisture, and she came 
back into her room, glad to see that the crackling wood 
in the fireplace was bursting into a flame. As she closed 
the shutters she saw that a door beyond lay open and 
peeped through. This was the room reserved for Rollo. 
For the first time she realised a disturbing feature in the 
adventure, but thrust the conventional dotd)t away, sure 
of herself and of him. 

"I can easily bolt the door." She smiled. **And Rollo 
wouldn't give it a thought! All the rooms in foreign 
hotels communicate — ^there's nothing in it !" 

The waiter duly appeared with dinner and she real- 
ised that she was hungry; glad, too, to taste again that 
indescribable savoury flavour of which the French hold 
the secret, even in the simplest dishes. Her spirits rose. 
She cast from her all memory of the painful scene down 
at the Villa. Rollo was coming. Rollo would set every- 
thing right. Before them lay a few last hours of the old 
perfect companionship. She re-read his telegram. It 
was evident that he held her blameless. 

She had ordered the omnibus, and as soon as the 
waiter had cleared away, she slipped into her dressing- 
gown and lay down on the broad French bed, with its 
vast duvet drawn over her, to steal a few hours of 
sleep. The logs hissed and sputtered softly with the 
pungent smell of a wood fire and it blent with the aro- 
matic odour rising from the polished floor. This was 
France. With all the chill of the sea air and the noise 
of the waves, she felt miles away from the bleak, silent 
fogs and depression of town. France — s. land of love 
and sunshine . . . Rollo was coming . . . her eyelids 
closed and with his name upon her lips she slipped away 
into dreamless slumber. 



CHAPTER XXX 

The boat came in true to time, despite the gale; for the 
wind was behind her. Deirdre, leaning over the rope 
dividing her from the passengers as they hurried for- 
ward to the douane, felt her heart give a gjeat throb 
when she saw the well-remembered figure, overcoat 
flapping loose, bag in hand, pass lightly through the 
huddled, wretched-looking crowd of commercial trav- 
ellers and invalids. 

She could not catch a glimpse of his face as he strode 
forward, unconscious of her, bent on getting through 
the Customs ahead of his bedraggled neighbours. So 
she made her way back to the bus, fearful of missing 
him in the scramble, and stood there impatiently, her 
eyes riveted on the exit. 

The first to emerge was a swarthy man with a square- 
cut beard and excitable air, arguing with a stubborn 
porter weighed down with a load of boxes in japanned 
tin and a wicker suit case ; then a youth, very pale, with 
a lady clinging to his arm in a tartan cloak and heavily 
veiled. Both tottered on their feet. Next two obvious 
Englishmen, pallid too, but recovering and able to grum- 
ble aggressively, with a North-coimtry burr, at the Cus- 
toms officials. Behind them appeared a clean-cut face, 
the eyes clear and keen as a hawk's: a tall and ener- 
getic figure, shouldering its own portmanteau. 

"Rollo!" Deirdre ran forward. She heard his quick 
exclamation. 

"You ! How dear of you to come. I never expected 
you would meet me !" 

He lowered his bag to the ground and seized her 
hands in his warm grasp, smiling gravely down at her, 
drinking in her excited pleasure. 

"Of course! I wanted to tell you at once that it's 
all right — good news! She's safe — ^safe in every 
way." Unconsciously she quoted Chris. 

314 



f n 



AUTUMN 315 

She saw the light flash up in his eyes — relief, wonder, 
and breathlessly, "I've seen Chris" — she ran on — "it's 
not too late — ^you understand ?" 

He nodded, unable to find his voice. Then, with char- 
acteristic thoughtfulness, drew her carefully aside out of 
the stream of passengers, now pouring through the door- 
way, aware that a porter threatened her with a formid- 
able Saratoga. 

A lamp shone overhead, illuminating both their faces ; 
their clasped hands and air of absorption. It looked to 
the crowd like a lover's meeting. Yet, although each felt 
sub-consciously the joy of perfect sympathy, their minds 
for the moment were occupied with the fate of a 
younger generation. 

"Hyacinth doesn't know you're coming — ^but Qiris 
does. In a way, he's glad. He's a dear fellow — true as 
steel!" She laughed with a faint ring of excitement. 
"Fancy having the nerve to refuse to run away with 
the girl you love when everything conspires to make 
the great adventure a success! And all he says is, 
*Not fair play/ " 

"By Heaven — he deserves her!" Rollo was moved to 
his inmost depths. "Dear old Chris." His face soft- 
ened. "We shall have to find a way for them — some- 
how — legally. There's no doubting a love like that! 
It's the real thing — eh, dear heart?" His eyes studied 
her pretty face, flushed by the wind, and her brilliant 
eyes. "Blue as violets to-night There are little rain- 
drops on your hair. . . ." 

Suddenly he glanced behind and realised their isola- 
tion. The cabs and buses had swallowed up the passen- 
gers. Alone and stranded the Chateau de Puy omnibus 
stood in their rear, the driver impatient. 

"Tell me the rest as we go along." He handed over 
his portmanteau. "That's all — no heavy luggage!" and 
helped Deirdre up the step. 

Neither of them was aware of a silent witness of their 
meeting, standing well within the shadows, his cap 
drawn down over his eyes, coat collar turned up, screen- 
in|f his fair-skinned, handsome face. Against the rough 
fneze of his ubter a dark triangular patch appeared, 




3i6 AUTUMN 

for he carried his right arm in a sling, from which a 
stiff hand protruded. 

He stood there, immovable. Only when the door of 
the bus had slammed behind Mesurier's back and he 
had seen the pair inside, facing each other, lean for- 
ward to talk once more eagerly as the wheels rumbled 
over the cobbles, did Carodoc venture forth from his 
gloomy hiding-place. 

His face was mottled red with anger, the eyes con- 
gested; his hands shook. He hailed the last remaining 
fiacre, in a voice which made the driver jump, flung his 
suit case into it and> scrambled after : 

"Grand Hotel T' 

The cocher gathered up his horse with reins and whip 
and grinned to himself. He liked to see an Englishman 
ruffled by a stormy crossing, the national ice shewing a 
crack. He, par exemple, had a temperament! But 
just to emphasise the fact of his own birthright — ^a son 
of freedom, brotherhood and equality — ^he shaved the 
edges of the pavement recklessly as they skirted the 
market. 

Carodoc did not resent it. The wild drjving suited 
his mood ; he almost hoped they would be smashed I He 
was muttering now, between his teeth — disjointed words 
thickened by anger. 

"So that's the game 1 A 'separation' ? I'm damned if 
it won't be a divorce 1 No wonder she didn't take 
Day. 'Business' " — ^he recalled her words — " 'concern- 
ing the Mesuriers.' " He used an ugly expression here. 
"I can guess what the business is !" 

Thus, torn by his seven devils, he was borne along the 
deserted front — where no Casino lights beckoned — to the 
best hotel Dieppe afforded. For even now, tossed by 

Eassion, he could afford to study his comfort. Across 
is wrath, like a gleam of hope, came the memory 
of a certain wine he had tasted there, on a summer 
visit. 

"Just my luck if there's none left." He caught 
at his cap as a sudden g^st swept across from the open 
plage. "I've earned a good drink to-nieht." 
Meanwhile the pair he anathematised had rumbled up 



AUTUMN 317 

the long hill and were out on the cliff, where the storm 
howled and rattled against the carriage windows. 

Deirdre had eased her mind of much of her burden 
— the tale was told. She leaned back happily as Rollo 
tucked the rug around her. "My dear child, I don't 
want It! I'm as warm as a toast after mjr crossing." 
For Deirdre had remonstrated at monopolising that ho- 
tel treasure. "Luckily I knew the captain — a dear old 
chap — so I stayed on deck. The rest of the crowd were 
bundled below, to lasciare ogni speranza! I had the 
whole ship to myself. The waves, too — such beauties! 
Great monsters rolling up and gnashing their teeth as 
we plunged along. It's made another man of me!" 

"I hope not." Deirdre laughed. "I rather liked the 
old Adam, and I'm not in the mood to meet strangers." 

"Shy?" He flashed her a puckish smile. "Could 
you, I wonder, be shy with me ?" 

"No !" But she coloured as she spoke. 

Mesurier bent nearer her. 

"I'm not so sure." His voice was low. Then with 
an effort he drew back. 

"When I was a boy" — he spoke lightly — "I used to 
think that thirty-seven, or forty say, was the open door 
to old age — decrepitude! That one would settle down, 
supine, to watching one's locks turn silvery, and that 
all the questioning of youth would be answered, one's 
doubts shed or settled. 

"Yet, here I am, still at a loss why I was bom or 
whither I go — with not one respectable inclination! — 
still alive to the call of romance, still eager for adven- 
ture, young in my inmost heart as ever. The only dif- 
ference I can discern is a certain reticence of spirit 
— the endless whys and wherefores sunk in an honest 
acceptance of mystery. I'm still intensely curious" — he 
spoke simply, watching her face — "but I'm willing to 
leave it in higher hands: the force that balances the 
world. Is that a sign of middle-age?" His voice 
sounded a shade wistful. 

"I don't think so." She smiled at him. "You'd never 
be old, in the orthodox sense. Not even as old as I 
am now !" 



"] 



318 AUTUMN 

'TfouT He threw back his head and laughed. "Why, 
the whole discourse arose from my wonder at the shy 
charm that still lurks beneath your golden maturity. 
To me you're just — the perfect flower." 

"*Of a virtuous life'?" She could not resist follow- 
ing up the old tag; for her cheeks were warm with his 
open praise and she tried to pass it off in laughter. 

"Heaven forbid! It sounds terrific." 

"Like a first prize at the local flower show? A mar- 
row that measures a foot across! We always get back 
to gardening, don't we? I wonder why?" 

"A throw-back to the garden of Eden. Perhaps we're 

modem reincarnations of Adam and Eve " He 

stopped abruptly, his laughing face clouded over. 

'Have you seen Caradoc?" 

'No." She divined his train of thought "The inter- 
view was arranged for to-day — ^yesterday — ^which is it? 
I put him off." 

A short silence succeeded the words. 

Deirdre was trying to muster all her courage to tell 
the man of her own forgone decision, the bitter part- 
ing that lay ahead. 

Yet it seemed so cruel to disturb his new-bom 
serenity — ^the relief he felt conceming his child — ^that 
she hesitated, tom asunder. 

His watchful eyes were on her face full of a curious 
speculation. She glanced up wistfully and Mesurier 
smiled at her. 

"Look here, little woman" — he bent forward and low- 
ered his voice — "let's banish all that — just for to-night — 
and go back again to the old simple days at Weavers. 
It seems to me that this strange adventure — ^you and 
I thrown together for a breathing-space of happiness — 
has been arranged outside our will. A gift direct from 
the high gods, a reward perhaps for all we've suf- 
fered? Shall we bury the whole problem and be honest 
lovers — I can't say 'friends' — for a few golden hours 
of peace? Can you trust me to that extent?" 

But Deirdre was thinking hard, her conscience at war 
with her heart. It seemed as if their roles were re- 
versed, that now her strength was greater than his. 



f » 



"i 



AUTUMN 319 

"It's not a question of trust," she whispered. "But 
mightn't it be harder . . . after?" 

"No." He stooped and, taking her hand, kissed the 
cold reluctant fingers with a sudden touch of passion. 
"I love you so." His voice was husky. "Grant me just 
this little respite. I can't bear to feel that a wall is 

dividing us " He broke off and looked at her search- 

ingly. "You don't love Caradoc ?" 
No." She met his gaze fully. 
Nor intend to return to him?" 
Never !" Her voice rang firm and true. 
Ah I . . . Thank God. I guessed as much. Then let 
us take what the kind fates offer. It's all so wonderful 
to me : you and I alone together, in this dear generous 
land of France — 3, night and a day out of prison" — ^he 
smiled — "where the turnkey is Mrs. Grundy!" 

A sudden sharp volley of rain lashed the windows 
and he started, staring out into the dark. "Rain!" he 
laughed. "I knew it was coming — I could feel it beat- 
ing in my pulses. Oh, you dearest thing on earth, 
say you'll agree? Come back to me, as you were 
that wonderful night in the woods, when you held 
me a moment in your arms. Do you remember, 
Deirdre?" 

"Yes." She was yielding to the spell — ^the love in his 
voice, his masterful manner. 

"To feel you're mine, and that we are one, the rest 

of the world filled with shadows; a sense of completion 

— with one thorn: that it's almost happiness — ^not 

•i ft 
quite. 

He saw her give a little start. The colour sprang 
up into her face. Now he understood her silence, the 
shadow of pain in her eyes. He realized that for 
a moment she had stood upon the perilous brink and 
gazed down into those depths where honour lies broken, 
flung by passion. 

The wonder of it held him dumb. That a wcmian of 
Deirdre's calibre could for a moment contemplate the 
ultimate sacrifice of her pride, measure it as the price 
of love, left him stunned and strangely humble. He 
knew at last that her heart was his. 




320 AUTUMN 

But he dared not let her guess the truth : that he'd 
glimpsed her secret. He went on: 

"Whatever may happen in the future, we shall have 
one golden hour to revive. Time cannot cheat us of 
the past. Say you agree?" His voice pleaded. "Just 
for to-night and to-morrow to have done with pretence 
— ^to admit we're lovers : honest lovers unbound by con- 
vention, strong enough to keep the bond a sacred one, 
that precludes regret. Deirdre, I love you so that if 
I thought it were better for you that I should leave you 
now for ever, slip away over the cliff to the last embrace 
of the *great white mother,' I believe I could do it 
willingly. 

"But I don't I know that the day will come when 
a way will be opened out to us." 

She could not resist this last request, with the 
prescience of the pain before him: those days of utter 
loneliness. Here, as he said, was a moment's respite. 
How could she have doubted him? She felt ashamed* 
of the dark suspicion and in her relief she held out 
her hand, like a child confirming a happy bargain. 

**Ah I" He gripped it so tight that she flinched. "You 
blessed creature. His mood changed, the old gaiety' 
bubbling up. "And here we go wasting the precious 
minutes in labelling obvious facts. Why, the world 
couldn't exist to-night if you and I were not lovers! 
It's a part of the plan laid down when God was put- 
ting the points on the stars. Deirdre" — he sobered down 

— "I'm going to forget Hyacinth for a brief space it's 

far wiser — give myself up entirely to you. I shall sec 
more clearly bye and bye. With the morning light it 
will all work out. You know" — his dark eyes twinkled 
— "we're doing a very mad thing — people would say it 
was an elopement! Has that ever occurred to you? 
Aunt Byng would be convinced that the whole scheme 
was prearranged ; and as to our dear Mrs. Gage " 

They laughed simultaneously. 

"What a cat that woman is — a tortoise-shell cat who 
plays tennis! The poor old Rector knows it, too, and 

is always concealing his scratched hands. I say'* ^he 

peered out — "is this the place?" For the omnibus had 



AUTUMN 321 

swerved round into the short circular drive before the 
hotel. 

"You've got me a room?" as she nodded. 

"Yes — with a balcony over the sea." 

"Good." They pulled up with a jolt and the driver 
clambered down from his box. 

The night porter welcomed them with a shrewd 
glance at Mesurier, whose fluent French for a moment 
deceived him. 

"Monsieur has had a stormy crossing?" His voice 
was blandly sympathetic. 

The Squire laughed. "A bit choppy!" and followed 
Deirdre up the stairs. 

"This IS your room." She opened the door. "I didn't 
let them light a fire as I remembered you once said you 
liked to sleep in a thorough draught !" 

"I do. This is first-rate." The porter, attentive, un- 
strapped his bag. The driver had made him a secret 
sign to convey the size of Mesurier's tip. 

. "I will get the soup that Madame ordered." He was 
off with a sympathetic glance. Himself, he had no illu- 
sions. Here was a pair of happy lovers. Married or 
single — who cared? His Gallic heart warmed towards 
them. 

"I thought you'd be hungry after your journey, so I 
told them to keep some soup for you. It's only potage 
d foseUle — I hope you like it?" Her face was anxious. 

"Rather! What fim — another picnic — and French 
bread !" He spoke like a school-boy. "I say, don't go ! 
Be a dear and imlock my bag. Here are the keys." 
He tossed them across. "And bundle things out whilst 
I wash my hands." He flung off his coat and turned 
up his cuffs. "Not the first time, my dear, you've seen 
me in my shirt sleeves." 

Deirdre laughed. "Not exactly ! Here are your slip- 
pers." She dragged them forth. "Why, they're full 
of cigarettes!" 

"The old dodge — evading the customs. There ou|[ht 
to be a hair-brush somewhere. Sure you don't mmd 
unpacking for me? It's so delicious having you do 
It." 



322 AUTUMN 






She nodded, amused by his energy. 

"Here's the sponge bag — ^you'll want the soap." He 
caught it neatly. 

'And a book — ^verses.** She turned the title page. 

'Yes. I put it in for you." 

This thought for her, at such a moment, when his 
daughter was missing, faced with disaster, filled Deirdre 
with wonder, a side-light on his love for her. 

"I think that when one is in pain books are the surest 
anaesthetic. Just turn to that marked page." He was 
drying his face, his voice half-smother«l. "Read it 
out " 

She found the place and, squatting back upon her 
heels before the half-emptied bag, obeyed him with a 
half smile. 

"Though living give my faith the lie. 
Though loving dip the wings of love. 
Though men humanity disprove. 
Though all my sins and moons go out. 
Though tongues of all the ages shout 
That only death may not deceive — 

111 not believe ! FU not beUeve !" * 



"D'you like that?" Mesurier asked. 

**Yes-^it*s fine! — so full of courage." 

''A sturdy faith — good to hold in Uiis half-hearted ma- 
terial world." 

The porter was tapping at the door. 

"The soup is served in Madame's room before the 
fire." He stood there smiling. "Is there anything more 
that Monsieur desires?" 

"Only this." Rollo dived into his pocket and held out 
a coin. "I'll be glad to get rid of this cart wheel" 

"Merci bienr The porter grinned. ''Et bonne nuit, 
monsieur et dame." 

"A neat way out of it." Rollo laughed as the door 
closed. "He does hope we're not married— you can sec 
it in the rascal's eye! Now" — he brushed back his hair 
— **Vm ready for our picnic, dear." He paused, one 

*By Irene Rutherford McLeod. 



AUTUMN 323 

arm thrust into his coat *'Do you remember Merlin's 
Spell?" 

"No/' 

'Tiarl" 

She twisted round, her face warm and mischievous. 
"But I couldn't forget the way you snored! It shook 
the leaves off the beech tree !" 

"I hope it won't shake the hotel to-night! Are you 
next door?" 

"Yes," she nodded. "Come along — ^that soup will be 
cold." 

Aware of his suddenly thoughtful glance, she led the 
way and opened the door between the two rooms, her 
step assured. The warm glow of the wood fire greeted 
them invitingly. 

"I say, this is jolly!" He followed her, his quick 
eyes taking in the feminine touch of the little slippers 
beneath the chair and the soft dressing-gown fltmg 
across it. 

The intimate sense of being there, alone in the night 
with the woman he loved, kept him silent for a mo- 
ment, conscious of her perfect trust. 

Divining something of his mood, she sat down at 
the round table laid for two and became the hostess. 

"Now then — grace first!" 

To her surprise he obeyed promptly. 

"For these and all Thy other blessings " His voice 

sank in a reverent whisper. 

"That should fly direct to Heaven, for it came from 
the depths of my being." He laid a hand for a second 
on hers. "I am ffrateful — please believe me." 

He saw that Deirdre was moved and his manner 
changed. 

"Soup, please." He held out his plate greedily. "And 
wine, ye gods ! — red wine of France." 

She gave him a generous helping of both and an- 
other memory flashed across her. 

"^Le petit vin de chez nous'" — 

He caught her up in his ringing voice — "'est chose 
legbre' — ^at least well hope so! What would you do, 
Deirdre. if I were overcome by it?" 



324 AUTUMN 

"Ring up the night porter." The practical answer 
tickled him. 

"What an end to his romance! And ours?" He 
looked at her curiously. 

"I don't think so. I could forgive a man for one 
foolish outbreak. One can't expect them to be per- 
fect." 

Rollo was much amused. 

"I don't think I've ever been drunk — not even in my 
college days. There's no excuse for it, you see. 1 
happen to have a strong head. People rarely consider 
that fact sufficiently. I've known a man quite futile 
and incoherent on two modest whiskies and sodas." He 
raised his glass as he spoke. "To the dearest woman 
whom God has madel" and drank it off, his eyes 
closed. * 

"They forget that the vine is His handicraft as well 
as the thistle," he drifted on. "It's odd how the *unco 
guid' persist in hunting for thorns beneath the roses. 
Now here are we, philosophers, realizing that though 
the best — ^the very best — is denied to us, there's an amaz- 
ing gift of beauty, of sympathy and happiness, offered 
freely, if we will take it 

"But few women could understand the difference, 
in the way you do, between sinning against convention 
and lowering one's own ideals. Thank God, you're dif- 
ferent — 2L part of myself in some subtle way. IVe never 
been closer to you, my sweet, than I am to-night, sitting 
here." 

It seemed to her that his gipsy face was transformed 
for a moment, a light behind shining through the bril- 
liant eyes, and a strange fear shot across her. So a 
dying man might look on the woman he loved for the 
last time. 

She threw off the queer foreboding. 

"I'm happy, too," she answered simply, "storing 
golden memories — 'memories like almighty wine.' Do 
you remember the Henley you gave me ?" ^ 

"Yes, another link in the chain. This Summer — 
what a resurrection of youth and hope and a man's long- 
ing! And I'm close on forty," he added abruptly. 



u 



AUTUMN 325 

Well?" She smiled at this afterthought. 
Oh, just a case of Henley again — 



"'Shall we not take the ebb who had the flow? 
Life was our friend. Now if it be our foe — 
Dear, though it spoil and break us ! — ^need we care 
What is to come?' 

"Deirdre" — he leaned forward — "I think youVe given 
me to-night the purest hour of happiness I have ever 
known. Whatever comes, remember this — will you, 
sweet ?" 

He read the answer in her eyes and returned to his 
old laughing manner. 

"Will you hand me the Judgment of Paris — or 
Puy? — ^wherever that apple was grown!" 

For the inevitable dish of dry and wizened hotel fruit 
had been added as a decoration. 

"I mayn't care for the flavour" — he bit it with his 
strong white teeth — "but there's something alluring in 
the scrunch. Have one?" 

She shook her head. 

His glance travelled on to the clock. 

**I say, is that the time? You poor child, you must 
be tired !" 

"I'm not. I had a good &leep before I came to meet 
you — this morning!" 

"Well, just a last cigarette and then good night." 

He rose and, pushing back the table, drew the chairs 
close to the fire. 

"In another hour it will be daylight. Do you ever 
hear from your godmother now?" 

"What put her into your head?" 

"Just offering you a cigarette. I remember I made 
it an excuse to detain you a minute that day at lunch. 
Did you guess that I loved you then ?" 

'No." She looked a shade surprised. 

'Well, here's another simple proof." He slipped his 
fingers into his pocket and produced a penny. "Remem- 
ber this?" 

"It's not the one I gave you myself — when you said 
*Ma'am' ?" She laughed shyly. 



"] 




326 AUTUMN 

"Yes — ^the boldly claimed backsheesh. Turn it over.'* 
He watched her, amused. 

Deeply scored across the face of the finest king that 
England has known was a date early in July. 

"I always keep it, as my mascot." 

He threw the end of the cigarette into the fire. 

"Dear — it's time — ^bed-time. You're looking tired." 

He was on his feet, with a smothered sigh. 

*Thank the stars, we've got to-morrow! I won- 
der " He bent down to her. ''Could you — ^would 

you think it right • . . ?" 

Instinctively she drew back; the slightest knovement, 
but he saw it. 

He straightened himself, his hands clenched. 

"No! Forgive me." He tried to smile. "Better not. 
I understand." 

He stepped stiffly towards the door, fighting down hb 
sudden longing. 

"Good night — sleep well." 

She started up, conscious at last of her silence and 
the pain on his face. 

"Rollo — stop ! One moment." Her voice shook. "If 
you — really want . . ." 

He managed a laugh. 

"'Want's' not in it! All the same — ^bless you, dar- 
ling." 

The door closed sharply behind him. 

She heard the bolt driven home; too disturbed to 
realise the futility of the precaution, though later on 
it made her smile. 

For a moment she battled hard against the swift temp- 
tation to call him back. But wisdom prevailed. She 
would but add to the bitterness of separation by the 
generous impulse that stirred her now. 

She began to undress noiselessly, wondering if he un- 
derstood that no lack of love had held her back, but 
a scrupulous instinct She felt unhappy. Then through 
the thm partition she heard him start to whistle softly 
and her face cleared. 

The thud of his boots echoed in the corridor as he 
set them down outside ViVs doox* ^xvd still the piping 



AUTUMN 



327 



air danced on, clear and sweet as a blackbird's note, 
with something of the woodland in it, and ended on a 
little trill. Deirdre smiled as she turned out the light. 
RoUo would always understand. 




CHAPTER XXXI 

Caraooc drove up in a cab to the Chateau de Puy at 
twelve o'clock. 

He looked pale, but alert and handsome, slightly aloof 
from his surroundings, with his ultra-British air, sug- 
gesting amused pity for foreign lands. 

The usual reaction from violent wrath had set in dar- 
ing the night, assisted later by a dish of his favourite 
"oeufs Meyerbeer." For he disdained a French break- 
fast, clinging to his native habits. 

He felt calm and confident, master of the situation, 
inclined to admire secretly the magnanimity of his 
mood. 

His wife should have every chance of clearing her 
threatened reputation. He was willing to listen to ex- 
cuses — however Bohemian they might bes— for this fur- 
tive visit to Dieppe. He would hear her out with manly 
forbearance. 

But of course it gave him the whip hand. This was 
balm to his hurt pride. 

He flicked a minute speck of dust off his sleeve as he 
paid the driver — awkwardly, with his left arm — ^and ad- 
justed the sling which held his right. 

The man clamoured for further pourboire. Cara- 
doc, no master of French, disdaining him, strode into 
the building whilst the driver informed a passing ac- 
quaintance that, "Here was a one who for two sous 
would sell the eyebrows off his mistress!" 

The bureau was empty. Caradoc moved on to the long 
salle d manger, where a couple of tables were laid for 
lunch, the rest stacked behmd a screen. ^ No waiter 
could be seen; the place seemed devoid of life. 

He retraced his steps as he noticed the fiacre pass 
with a last crack of a whip and a shrill curse, and strid- 
ing out through the silent hall pulled the front-door bell. 



AUTUMN 329 

After a moment a porter appeared, hurriedly strug- 
gling into his coat. 

"Are you all dead and buried here?" Caradoc asked 
impatiently. 

Mais non, monsieur, mille pardons !" Flustered, the 
porter replied in French, then relapsed into broken Eng- 
lish. "Monsieur, no doubt, will understand we are all 

imdemeath upside! This tragedy " He threw out 

his hands dramatically. "To bathe — ^this weatlier! 
What a madness! — in November — ^whoever dreamed of 
such a folly? The manager has gone to Dieppe to in- 
form the police — he is 'bouleversf — what you call 'roll- 
over*? The first time such a thing had happened — and 
no one's fault. Monsieur understands? For, see you — 
the boat was dragged down as soon as le petit brought 
the alarm. But the boatman could not be found at 
once. In the season he would be rowing about with a 
good strong rope — every precaution — but " 

Caradoc cut him short 

"I don't follow. Has some one been drowned ?" 

"Assuredly. Has not monsieur heard? See — there, 
upon the beach — that little crowd." He pointed it out 
"They are watching the water and Jean in his boat. 
But the good God alone knows when the body will be 
found! The current is strong beyond the bay. It 
may be swept as far as Dieppe — further — ^be washed 
ashore at Pourville — or caught in the cliffs. What a 
misfortune! And the poor lady so devoted— one can 
see that in the wink of an eye — ^and only arrived by 
the night boat. ... It is enough to desolate you !" 

"The night boat?" Caradoc stared. "What was the 
name?" His voice was sharp. 

"Tiens! The porter clutched his brow with a grimy 
hand. "// m'Schappe! A curious one, hardly Eng- 
lish. . . ." 

"Mesurier?" 

%a y estr 

"Good Lord !" Caradoc flinched. The man looked at 
him curiously. 

"Monsieur perhaps was a friend?" 

Caradoc's face, with an effort, went blank* 




330 AUTUMN 



tt 



I knew him slightly/' His voice was indifferent 
Look here, can vou get me a drink ? I should like a 
glass of French beer and there don't seem to be any 
waiters/' He wanted time to digest the news. 

"At once!" But the porter lingered. **If monsieur 
will enter the salle d manger." He held back the swing- 
ing door. "There is a fire — it is more cheerfuL Voiliil 
Would monsieur like le Matin f" 

Caradoc took a seat at a table that commanded a view 
of the hall outside, and shook off the voluble creature. 

Here was a pretty kettle of fish, and where on eartii 
was Dierdre? 

A dishevelled waiter brought him his "bock." The 
beer was good and his spirits listened. But he did 
not like to ask for his wife; it would mean awkward 
explanations. Presumably the hall porter took her for 
Mesurier's ? He scowled at this unpleasant thought, but 
remembered "the poor devil" was dead. 

This placed thmgs on a different footing, removing 
the cause of the scandal. Deirdre now would be alone, 
and he had not fancied tackling the Squire. 

She would be thankful to return and claim the pro- 
tection of a husband — provided, of course, she could 
explain what had brought her to Puy on this mad 
adventure. 

He began to picture the coming scene, his wife's de- 
spair and gratitude. 

"I shan't make it too hard for her," he informed a 
cupid on the ceiling as he leaned back in his chair and 
lit a Turkish cigarette. "What we want is to hush 
things up. I must take her home by the next boat 
Lucky the flat's all in order — ^very effective that blue 
paper Madame Svendson insisted upon. Deirdre will 
feel ashamed when she sees all I've done for her," His 
mind moved forward, counting expenses. "Yes, she's 
pretty well off now ; she ought to give me a helping hand 
— entertain a little, too. I'm sick of those long dull 
evenings." 

Then he saw her cross the hall. Her motor veil was 
drawn down over her face, shrouding her, and she moved 
quickly, avoiding attention. 



AUTUMN 331 

"Now's my chance," thought Caradoc. He watched 
her start to mount the stairs and followed, noiseless, 
in her wake. 

She paused to hunt for the key in her bag outside 
her door and he drew nearer. As she opened it and 
turned to remove the key she found her husband be- 
fore her. 

"You!" Horror was in her voice. He took it im- 
mediately for guilt. 

"Yes. You weren't expecting me?" He pushed past 
her into the room, aware of her movement to close 
the door. 

Deirdre stood there irresolute. She glanced down the 
corridor like a trapped creature seeking escape. 

"Now, my dear" — at her evident fright he felt master 
of the case — ^''just come in and sit down and we'll talk 
things over quietly." 

"Not hereT She shrank back. This room so full of 
memories I Then her courage rose supreme. "You have 
no right to intrude like this and force yourself on to 
me !" 

He smiled at her indulgently. 

"Come, come — you're overwrought. And the servants 
will hear you." He closed the door, laying a hand on 
her arm to prevent active opposition. 

She flinched, moving away from his touch, and this 
stung his vanity. 

"Surely you don't want further scandal? As to rights, 
I'm your husband, although you seem to forget the 
fact." 

"No." She faced him soberly. "I forget nothing — 
not even your words when you told me to 'go and stay 
away'! I remember everything you said." (He could 
see now, through her veil, her strained expression and 
her pallor, the blue eyes dulled by tears.) "But, if 
you've any decency, you will leave me alone at a mo- 
ment like this." 

Caradoc shuffled on his feet. It was not so easy as he 
had imagined. 

"I can understand that you're upset." He thought it 
wiser to overlook her reference to the old quarrel. "It's 




332 AUTUMN 

a nasty business altogether. The shock — ^Mesurier — " 
He cleared his throat "Still, it seems to me that I can 
help — if you'll only listen to advice! The very fact 
that I'm here with you should put an end to unpleasant- 
ness. No one need know when I arrived." He fdi 
proud of himself.^ 

She stared at him. 

"Oh ... I see. It's the thought of scandal." She 
bit her lip. Then to his utter horror she laughed. 

"I'm past worrying over that." 

"Are you? Upon my soul! You seem to take it 
pretty coolly. I find you here — ^all alone — without your 
maid" — his temper was rising — "spending the night at 
an hotel with Mesurier. A nice story!" 

His voice took on a hectoring note. "Why did yoti 
come here? What is this 'business'? If you'd tell me 
that — ^honestly — I should find it easier to forgive you." 

Deirdre thought rapidly. Her one idea was to be 
alone; to end this scene, get rid of Mark. And yet— 
she could not betray the girl. Though Hyacinth had de- 
clared herself an enemy — ^and even now, in the shock 
of her father's pitiful death, refused to see Deirdre— 
she would not confide another's secret to save her threat- 
ened reputation. 

"I can't explain. It's a private matter." 

"Private!" Caradoc's face grew red. "Pretty pub- 
lic, I should say. What must they think in this hotel?" 

Unluckily his restless eyes fell on the narrow door be- 
tween the two rooms. It lay ajar, disclosing a bag and 
scattered clothes of an obviously masculine description. 

"I believe you were in love with the fellow. Damn 
him !" 

Deirdre's blue eyes blazed. How dare he vent his 
spleen on the dead? 

"Yes, I was — heart and soul!" 

Caradoc flinched as though she had struck him. 

"And you dare to stand there and confess it!" He 
was spluttering now. "You're off your head !'* 

"No, I'm telling you the truth. You asked for it." 
She felt no pity, only a sort of outraged wonder. She 
saw he believed \.Vv^ v^ot^t o£ Vver. 



AUTUMN 333 

"If I had been — what you imagine, do you think he 
would be dead now? That I should have let him at- 
tempt to bathe in this weather, with such a sea?" 

Caradoc gulped this down in silence. Like all bullies, 
he was a coward and her resolute front was weakening 
him. There might be logic in what she said? 

"Oh, I see !" He capitulated. "Since that's how— er 
— ^matters stand — ^and I think you've got a dashed good 
husband to take your simple word for it — Pm willing 
to forget and forgive, and get you out of this beastly 
scrape." He had almost persuaded himself meantime 
that her remark about loving Rollo was nothing more 
than hysteria. Perhaps there had been a "sort of flirta- 
tion"? His conscience was not entirely easy concerning 
his friend, Madame Svendson. 

She gave him an odd little smile. It seemed to her 
she was looking on at a scene played by other people 
— that this was no concern of hers, an outside propo- 
sition. 

After the agony of the morning her senses were 
numbed; life itself was a dream — a pitiful mockery. 
All she prayed for was solitude. 

"I think you really mean to be kind" — she spoke in a 
queer detached voice — ^"but it comes too late to touch 
me now. I've done with the old years of bondage." 

She gave herself a little shake as though to stir her 
drowsy wits. "I've given you freely all my youth: 
lived for you — ^worked for you — and never made you 
contented yet, nor brought happiness into our lives. And 
now" — she leaned against the bed, a hand gripping the 
brass rail — "I only ask for a little peace — to be alone — 
forget . . . remember. . . . You can't possibly want me 
back. I've never suited you in the least. I'm not the 
type of woman you care for, or ever could understand. 
You asked for freedom — you let me go. You've nearly 
crushed the spirit in me and ruined my health with your 
temper. Why should we risk all that again?" 

"But — dash it all, Deirdre !— don't you care for me 
at all ?" His face was an almost comical mixture of dis- 
belief and wounded pride. 

"No, it's gone." Her voice was faint ; the room swam 




334 AUTUMN 

before her eyes. Guadoc's sudden movem ent broaght 
her back to a sense of realities, for his anger m 
slipped its frail kash. He moved towards her threat- 
eningly. 

"I never heard such damned nonsense! I've married 
you and you're my wife, and, if you dcm't come bade 
to me, by Heaven 3rou shall pay for it! Do you think 
I'm going to let you make a public laughing^-stock of 
me — run about all over the place with any man who takes 
your fancy? I'm not such a fool as all that! ITl give 
you now a last chance. IVill you return — or will yoa 
not?" 

"No." She began to loosen her veil with a fccKng 
of suffocation. 

"Then, by God, I'll divorce you ! You can't get away 
from the law of England — and legally you're a gvaltf 
woman. Every lawyer would bear me out." 

She threw back the stifling gauze. No fear was in 
her face, but a curious wonder flitted across the deep 
lines left by pain. 

"Do you think I am guilty?" Her voice was still. 

For a moment he stared deep in her eyes. Then, 
mad with temper, he sneered: 

"I think you're a damned fine actress !" 

He saw her reel and catch her breath. Colour in- 
vaded her pale cheek. 

"Ah! . . ." She gripped at the friendly rail, con- 
trolling herself by an effort of will. 

"And you'll live to r^^et it!" He started to bluster, 
aware of her weakness, but feeling the spur of his 
native cruelty driving him on to trample on a fallen 
foe. 

Then he started and glanced behind him. For a sec- 
ond he felt as though a breath of cold air had blown 
across him. Deirdre's eyes were fixed ahead, her lips 
parted, but no words came. 

He stepped back nervously, his anger ebbing, and 
made for the door, but paused irresolute on the 
threshold. 

"Deirdre . . . ?" His voice shook. But she neither 
moved nor turned her head. 



AUTUMN 



335 



"Oh, very well !" He shrugged his shoulders. "You'll 
hear from me — ^through the lawyers!" 

As the door slammed after him she slipped down to 
the floor, unconscious. 



CHAPTER XXXII 

The wind had sunk and with it the swell of the long 
rollers. Now the sea lay tranquil, bathed in an amethyst 
glow, save for a pathway of faery gold that led from 
die t^y, where the shadows lengthened, to the half-dosed 
doorway of the son. 

The dark horizon cut across the lower curve of his 
shining face, and the last cries of the sea-gulls rose, 
piercing and restless, sharply discordant. 

Deirdre, crouching over the fire, thought that Aey 
wailed for the death of Rollo; his beautiful body, so 
full of life, npw cold and stark on the bed of the sea. 

Where had he gone? To that "afterwards" on which 
he had counted so serenely ; a land of spirits where Time 
and Space were merged into Eternity, waiting, fuH of 
the knowledge withheld from earthly existence, to wel- 
come her, to be at one for evermore? 

Or just wiped out — waste matter! 

She shivered, stretching out her hands to the flidc- 
ering logs, aware that here she had reached the limit 
of lonely pain. Nothing could be worse than this; not 
even the chill of dissolution. 

Youth lay behind her, dead; love — a memory! — 
snatched away before it bore the flower of fulfilment; 
honour — that fruit of Autumn days — ^withered and tram- 
pled underfoot. 

A gull circled close to the window and dipped again 
into the bay, which echoed back its mournful cry. Rollo 
was dead — all Nature wept. Rollo with his faun- 
like grace, his brilliant eyes and mocking smile, his chiv- 
alry and tenderness. Rollo — the dream and the attain- 
ment! 

A little splutter of gas broke out from a charred log 
where a spark alighted. She watched it, half hypnotised. 
Here was a spirit of dead trees ; a flame without a mate- 
rial substance, yet visible, full of warmth. Whence had 

536 



AUTUMN 337 

it come? What law of life had formed its existence, 
kindled it? 

Nature? No. Nature herself was subject to the ele- 
ments. God, then? — she caught her breath — the All- 
Creator, Lord of the Winds, controlling the Stars and 
the fruitful Earth, speeding the Spirits forth at birth, 
gathering them in at the harvest of death. 

A curious exaltation seized her. Why did she doubt? 
That potent force, which had framed and controlled 
the universe by the "laws of balance" that Rollo had 
preached, could not be moved by the will of man from 
the chosen means to the plan's perfection. No human 
sorrow, no pang of loss could weigh the scales of eternal 
justice, but "afterwards" — who could say? — might there 
not be some recompense for fidelity and high endeavour? 
Wx)uld they not meet — she and Rollo? 

Yes, assuredly, in the spirit. 

And if so — she smiled faintly — how short was the span 
of life before her ! Better by far that this should come 
in Autumn with only the Winter ahead than sap the 
peace of her early Spring and prolong the lonely 
pilgrimage. 

But meanwhile she must fill the gap; find relief in 
active work. Since she herself was beyond help, extend 
it to suffering humanity and use the new understanding 
that broadened her heart's sympathies. 

How? Her chin sank down on her hand, the tear- 
dimmed eyes were full of thought 

Mark ? She tried to see clearly. Why attempt a hope- 
less task? If Mark after twelve years of marriage, of 
endless striving, and wasted love, of utmost fidelity on 
her part, could at the first breath of suspicion label 
her as a light woman — No ! her influence was gone. 

And Hyacinth? 

A bitter throb of pain made her weary eyelids droop. 
Rollo's own flesh and blood, his life work — his last 
bequest. 

But Hyacinth had turned against her. 

Wearily she went back through the events of that 
tragic day, and the sweet awakening with the light to 
find his note on the polished boards, slipped beneath the 




338 AUTUMN 

bolted door; those words which lay against her heart, 
a last message from the dead. 

"Dearest : 

"Fm going down to bathe. Clear sunshine, the seas 
calling. This is only a scribbled line of love to wish 
you good-morning in case you should wake and do the 
same, then wonder at my churlish silence. 

"I can't resist those dancing waves, but I won't linger 
with the naiads. There's a strong attraction on the 
shore — a woodland nymph with violet eyes. 

"Would vou come for an early walk — ^a last hour of 
holiday before we settle to our work and the fate of 
Aucassin and Nicolette? 'Tant par est douce^ ... you 
remember that? We shall have to scheme, you and I. 
Chris has earned his heart's desire; I see that very 
clearly. 

"So hey! for a battle with Convention. I've no pity 
for the wife. It's the law of balance. She won by a 
trick, and it always turns against the knave. But well 
have to straighten Hyacinth's tangle. I can't have one 
scandalous breath dim the glory of her hair. He must 
wait and win her soberly — another test for our pair of 
lovers ! 

"I suppose I'm not the sanest of parents ? That bug- 
bear 'divorce' is a myth to me. They were never mar- 
ried — as / see it — just linked by the foolish laws of maa 

"It's against my whole creed of life that Chris should 
suffer for her fault, to the end of the chapter, with- 
out respite. It suggests an utter lack of proportion. 

"Turn it over in your brain — ^that clever woman's 
brain of yours — sharpened by instinct, the precious gift 
that God gives to all mothering creatures. 

"Dare I quote Browning to you? Browning, so sadly 
out of fashion for fluffy poets who prate of sin as a new 
pleasure — ^unexplored ! For 



<« 



1 must feel your brain prompt mine 
Your heart anticipate my heart, 
You must be just before, in fine 
See and made me see, for your part 
New depths of the Divine!' 



AUTUMN 339 

Oh, my sweet, it's so perfect ! To know you are near me, 
sleeping there. I've never closed my eyes all night, 
picturing you with your dear dark hair flung across the 
white pillow, one rounded cheek, flushed with sleep, and 
the wistful curves of your long lashes. 

"Deirdre, shall I ever forget how you looked that 
night in the moonlit woods? Browning knew the spell 
of the trees — he voices my thoughts in the same poem: 

* 'The forests had done it ; there they stood — 
We caught for a second the powers at play : 
The^ had mingled us so, for once and for good^ 
Their work was done — we might go or stay, 
They relapsed to their ancient mood.' 

"Dear, I could write to you for ever ! But the longer 
I wait the longer the hours, or minutes — which is it to 
be? — ^before I see you face to face. 

"I would so like to steal tiptoe and kiss you once be- 
fore you wake. But I won't. You're wise — we'll store 
our treasures. I can only pray you are dreaming of 

"ROLLO." 

She read the loving lines once more and rebellon seized 
her — 2L sharp regret. Why had she wasted that golden 
hour — forbidden him even a parting kiss? Never yet 
had their lips met. ... 

And for this Caradoc would divorce her! 

Was there any justice in heaven — any limit to man's 
folly? 

One thing alone could save her honour: treachery to 
Hyacinth. At this she straightened her slim shoulders. 
Never I She would not stoop to it 

Back went her drifting thoughts to the early tragedy 
of the morning. 

She had moved to the window, letter in hand, and 
gazed out over the sunlit sea. Tliere was no sign of 
Mesurier; only an urchin, who ran, barefoot, up the 
road towards the hotel. 

Disappointed she had turned to ring for hot water; 
once, twice, then at last had opened her door to gaze 
down the empty passage. 



i 



340 AUTUMN 

The chambermaid had appeared, breathless. 

"Pardon, madame — mais — quel malheur!" Out it 
came, a voluble story of hopeless disaster, excitement 
and pity. 

They were hunting for Jean to launch the boat 
"What a madness! — to bathe in November! Le petit 
had watched monsieur swim, far out, diving beneath the 
big waves, and then, mon Dieuf — ^it must have been the 
cramp that seized him " 

What followed seemed strangely blurred until she had 
found herself at the villa and guessed at the sight of 
Pontefract's face that the ill news had preceded her. 

Hyacinth, mad with grief, had refused to see Deirdrc, 
or admit her to the room where she lay, face downwards, 
on her bed. 

The one glimmer of light through the gloom had been 
the attitude of Chris, pitiful and warmed by respect 
He had faced the necessary business with a dogged grip 
of the situation : all that aftermath of death which seems 
so utterly unimportant to those left in that workaday 
world which ignores their trouble and still rolls on. 

"I thought it through before you came." His hazel 
eyes had been heavily shadowed. "We won't wire Mrs. 
Byng before ten. It will give us time. She can't come 
till the midnight boat. We must get Hyacinth to the 
hotel and pretend she's been there from the start — better, 
you know, for both of you. The manager will hold his 
tongue. It's a bad enough business as it is! He'll be 
thinking about his next season and— er — you know — 
the bathing crowd." He had gulped in his throat and 
gone on : "You were on your way to Paris, see ? Put in 
at Puy for a short visit — my suggestion. Lord 1" he had 

K>aned. "What a thundering pack of lies I Did Rollo 
ow? — understand how it all happened?" His voice 
had been hoarse. 

"Yes." She Had roused herself at this, touched by the 
man's anxiety. "He blessed you for all your care of her. 
Called you again 'Dear old Chris*." 

Pontefract turned away, his eyes dimmed. "Thank 
God! I loved the chap— couldn't help it." He had 
stretched out a blind hand to her. "It's the limit — ► 



AUTQMN 341 

isn't it, my dear? And — I'm so damned sorry for youP 

"Don'tr She had clung to his warm clasp and felt a 
brotherly arm thrown round her quivering shoulders, 
steadying her, 

"Look here ! You must buck up I Won't do. I know 

you've grit. And there's Hyacinth " A pause. 

"Let's get on with this beastly business !" 

So they had gone at it again : the telegrams to London 
and Weavers, and the details of his hurried scheme to 
protect the name of the girl he loved. 

"You mustn't misjudge her. She'll come round." But 
his gloomy face had belied the words. "She doesn't 
know what she's about. I daren't leave her for very 
long." He had glanced at the door anxiously. "Can 
you send these wires from the hotel?" She had nodded. 
"I'd best sign them myself." He had added apolo- 
getically : "I wish I could be of more use, but you see 
exactly how I'm placed?" 

"Yes, of course. You must stay with her. I'll return 
here — about eleven. And . . . thank you." She had 
held out her hand. Chris had gripped it painfully. 

"Come at once if there's any trouble. Don't let any 
one bother you." He had hesitated, plainly nervous. 
"Have you told them the name and address and — all 
that?" 

"Yes, of course!" Her eyes had widened. "Oh, I 
see" — di wan smile — ^"they know that he was only a 
friend. I made no mystery about it." 

"Why should you?" He met her half-way. "It's as 
right as houses, I know that." Then he had coloured 
violently, "I mean, of course, it's obvious," and had gone 
on very quickly, "and, look here — don't see reporters 
or police officials of any sort. Pack them off — down to 
me. I'll settle 'em — and pretty quick! Try and get a 
little rest. You'll want it, you know, bye and bye. I'll 
tackle Mrs. Byng myself — be there to meet her at 
Dieppe. Provided" — his face had clouded again — "that 
Hyacinth " 

She had nodded gravely. 

"Chris, don't press the child to see me. So long as 
she comes to the hotel. She can go to bed at once, you 



know, and rcBBiii there'* Her Gps fiad mAiveie iL "'Sk 
needn't really meet me at alL I can steal 3:way b]f die 
mcjmiag boat. That is, if she doesn't want me-"* 

'*She docs.** He had 5ed See a gentkxnan. "*It s onfy 
she's o^ her head jost now. I thongfxt the shack wooM 
have finished her ! — the worst half hoar of my life. But 
when she comes to her senses, you'll sec.^ 

They had slipped qniedy down die passage and nxtD 
the pitiless gay sonshinr. He lad not the coorage to 
ten her the truth : that Hyacmth in her pas^anate grief 
and rebellion had blanxd Deirdre and had used as her 
final argtonent, when Qtrs bad orged her to forgive, the 
theoTj dot if the f oiiu e i had "^on^ been loyaT* xad 
stSLjtd in town RoHo woold not bare followed her. She 
would not listen to Pootef ract^s soknm assurance dxat 
he had known in any case that Mesorier woold arrived 
the Villa Nicolette. 

She had sat np in bed with tragic eyes and had thmst 
aside his loving arms. 

'^Yoo, too! I siqipose yoo admire her? She steals 

Rotlo away from me, and then " Anodier spasm of 

tears. 

For this was her first great sorrow. In all her shel- 
tered sunny Ufe she had never faced die fact of death. 
Youth and love were to her immortaL Happiness — 
Rollo's creed— had been the nltimate goal of hfe. Noth- 
ing had strei^[thened her sool to meet the cruel blow 
before it fell. 

Deirdre had pondered on this, as she dragged her 
heavy limbs along the dusty lane to the hotel, little divin- 
ing that there lay a fnrther trial awaiting her, in the 
shape of Caradoc 

After his dramatic exit, the chambermaid, bustling in 
with some clean towels, had found her stretched in a 
dead faint upon the floor. With the practical kindliness 
of her race, Marie had restored the suflFerer without 
summoning outside help, and, better still, without futile 
questions. 

Madame was prostrate with the shock — -and so brave 
— one saw that ! Had madame considered in her trouble 
that it was past the luncheon hour ? The bon Dieu knew 



AUTUMN 343 

it was hard to eat when the heart escaped you. But if 
madame would leave it to her? Bon! She had bus- 
tled out of the room. There had followed a colloquy 
with the waiter. Later a tray had changed hands and 
Marie had skilfully lit the fire with the help of her 
friends, the fragrant fir cones, keeping meanwhile a 
watchful eye on her patient to see that the food went 
down. 

The motherly voice had proved a tonic and Deirdre 
had admired the tact with which Marie had avoided all 
S3rmptom of curiosity regarding the lady's presence there 
and her connection with Mesurier: what RoUo had 
called "the Latin touch," which combined a shrewd 
knowledge of life with a sympathy for all forms of error 
arising not from the head but the heart. 

She guessed that the woman looked on her as Rollo's 
mistress — ^no more, no less ; but her cloak of charity was 
not edged with the border of the Pharisee. 

Here was a sister in sore trouble. She left her soul 
to the Almighty and ministered to the spent body with 
the sure instinct of the peasant. 

Refreshed and calmed Deirdre had returned to the 
Villa Nicolette to spend a furtive anxious hour, whilst 
Chris, in vain, had tried to persuade the girl upstairs to 
listen to reason. 

For Hyacinth refused to move. She would "stay with 
Chris." This was her verdict. In vain he pointed out 
to her that it meant the ruin of their hopes. 

She only clung the closer to him. Deirdre she de- 
clined to see. 

RoUo was dead — she had "only Chris !" What did it 
matter what people said? They were "superior to the 

world." If Chris left her He guessed the rest. 

Youth indulges in morbid extremes and easily hints at 
self-destruction. 

She drove the man to the verge of distraction; an- 

S leered him, then won him back through the passionate 
ove he bore for her by her childish caresses and poig- 
nant grief. 
He had come downstairs white and broken. 
"No go I" He had poured himself out a drink with 




344 AUTUMN 

a hand that shook like a leaf. Deirdre had steadied the 
^lass. Pitiful, she saw that the strain was sapping his 
• trength and his earlier purpose. 

"If it comes to the worst I shall see it through — boh 
with her! What else can I do? Keep her here to be 
torn to pieces by Aunt Byng when she arrives? She's 
got the law on her side, too ; can carry the girl away with 
her. And picture the life she'd lead her then. It's un- 
thinkable ! — worse than prison." He had sat there, hold- 
ing his head. "What the devil am I to do ?" 

A telegraph boy had topped the bank. Pontefract had 
flung out to meet him, returning his face less gloomy. 

"Not coming till to-morrow — ^the Byngs, I mean. It 
gives us a chance. Let me think " 

She had interrupted. 

"In that case, I've an idea. I can sleep here on the 
sofa. Hyacinth needn't know. We can explain to Mrs. 
Byng that she fled away from the hotel and you gave up 

the villa to us. She couldn't bear it— not after " She 

had paused, leaving the phrase unfinished. 

"That's it! Let's get it complete. I stayed on, after 
all, as she was ill and might want the doctor. No one 
can object to that. Although Meg" — in his relief a 
suppressed laugh had escaped his lips — ^"won't believe a 
single word! She was always jealous of you at Wea- 
vers! Kept a wily eye on me for fear of my coming 
to pay toll." 

At the old familiar joke, Deirdre, in a sudden flash, 
had seen the picture before her eyes: the cottage with 
its homely porch and latticed windows that breathed of 
peace. ... 

She had risen with a feeling of panic. 

"Then I'll go, for a time." Pontefract, preoccupied 
by his own scheme, had let her out. 

With the memory of Four Comers haunting her like 
a Summer ghost, between the bare boughs of the trees 
fringing the road, she had stumbled along. 

Had she really lived through those long hours of heed- 
less content — ^with the flowers and the sun ?— drowsed in 
the orchard until Day's step summoned her in to her 
frugal meals? ' 



AUTUMN 345 

Day! Could she send for her? What a comfort she 
would be. Then she remembered the maid's trouble. 
No, she must put the thought away. 

Was there no one else in the world ? 

Cousin Maddie ? Impossible. The wide ocean lay 
between them. She must bear her own burden alone. 

She had passed swiftly through the hall, avoiding the 
clerk's watchful eye, and gaining her room had locked 
the door and there like a phantom that fades when 
faced she had thrust Four Comers away from her — 
with all its perilous memories. * • • 

• ••••• 

On the table where her tray had lain was a handful of 
violets closely tied — ^a little bunch d deux sous propped 
up in her bedroom tumbler. 

This was Marie — her only friend. She bent closer. 
They held no scent. 

"It's like my life," was her bitter thought; "nothing 
remains — ^not even a perfume !" 

Suddenly she threw her arms out to the sea : 

"Oh,Rollo— /eo/to.^' 

No answer came; only the cry of the gulls circling 
above the water. 




CHAPTER XXXIII 

The sun slipped down into the waves, and speedily, 
with no afterglow, the swift twilight of November blot- 
ted out the dim horizon. The tide, turning", began to 
steal across the line of stranded seaweed and the gulls 
scattered to seek their haunts in the holes of the cliff; 
all was still. 

Deirdre, rousing from her dreams, laid another log on 
the fire, then sank back into her old position, allowing 
her thoughts to wander afield. 

Where would she go when Hyacinth had been re^ 
claimed by Mrs. Byng? 

Back to Weavers ? Without Rollo ! She shrank from 
the thought of those shadowy trees — ^witnesses of her 
happiness — ^and the garden he had planned for her. At 
the mercy, too, of the village tongues, to wait for Cara- 
doc's revenge and the public shame of her divorce. 

No ; her sanctuary was shattered. 

Brighton? — ^her mother? Worse still! She smiled at 
the bare idea; a pale smile without mirth. She knew 
full well what awaited her there. 

Again, like a kindly hand outstretched, came the mem- 
ory of Cousin Maddie— the dear, impulsive, loving soul 
with the esprit de corps of American woman. Surely 
there she could find comfort, understanding and sympa- 
thy. 

Could she tear herself away from England and seek a 
new life in the States? And would Day come v^th her? 
She clung to Day as a last hope. 

She had heard that divorce in America was viewed in 
a more kindly spirit : that her sex held an equal right to 
be freed without humiliation. Marriage was not one 
law for man and another for woman ; the Gordian knot 
could be cut before the latter stooped to dishonour 
through sheer desperation. 

346 



^^^i^g^g^ 



AUTUMN 347 

Cousin Maddie, knowing Mark, would find every ex- 
cuse for her. And yet 

A faint doubt arose; she remembered the warnings 
down at Weavers; her godmother's shrewd distrust of 
the Squire and the motives that underlay his friendship. 

Instantly her loyalty was on the alert. She would not 
fly in her last extremity to one who could cast the slight- 
est blame on RoUo I She could see the delicate piquante 
face, with its aureole of snow-white hair and the youth- 
ful eyes — restless, clever — their shrewd, unfaltering out- 
look on life. She could not hide this Autumn passion 
from the experience of Winter, and it seemed to threaten 
her last treasure: the sacred memories she stored. 

Thank God she had not told him! 

The thought flashed across her now that Rollo had 
gone to meet his death unaware of her decision ; loving 
her, trusting her, believing that they should come to- 
gether once the parting with her husband had become 
an irrevocable fact. 

She tried to force herself to admit that this cruel 
blow held a subtle mercy, dividing her sharply from her 
lover without the long strain that life, apart from each 
other, would surely have proved. But her honesty re- 
jected the notion. Better by far admit the gulf, and 
know him a living breathinc^ soul, awake like herself to 
a gleam of hope — ^that pale lamp of humanity — than 
passed beyond the sound of her voice into the eternal 
silence. 

Somewhere below came the ring of a bell and the 
grating wheels of the omnibus, then the heavy thud of 
luggage bumped down on the steps. A belated traveller, 
no doubt, halting midwav upon his journey and choos- 
ing the quiet little spot for the sake of an earlier mem- 
ory, or with an eye to the Summer ahead, instead of a 
choice of hotels at Dieppe. 

Deirdre listened for a moment with a sudden dread 
of Mrs. Byng. No, it was a man's voice, rather stac- 
cato, obviously French. A door opened and was 
slammed; steps receded down the passage. 

The unwonted stir sent her back to Uie old problem — 
her own departure. 




348 AUTUMN 

Where should she turn on reaching London, when her 
luggage had been hurriedly gleaned from the dainty 
room in Deanery Street ? She could not remain for long 
in town exposed to Mark's insolence. 

Italy? The thought stirred her with memories of her 
happy girlhood. 

Become a wanderer on the earth ? One of those faded, 
silent women, who flit from pension to hotel, familiar 
to the traveller in Southern lands where food is cheap: 
a woman with a history, curiously shunned by her coun- 
try-people. 

Could she afford to keep Day? She made a rapid cal- 
culation. Better a garret in the sunshine if Day would 
share it than lonely exile. 

Ah ! If only Hyacinth would understand and turn to 
her, life would still hold a blessing — some one to com- 
fort and protect. 

Hyacinth — who could have saved her! 

Caradoc's case would have broken down; the mere 
presence of the girl on this perilous visit to Dieppe would 
have offered a sufficient reason for Deirdre's line of con- 
duct. It would have saved her from public shame and 
guaranteed to the girl herself the surest means of escape 
from scandal in her foolish flight to Pontefract 

Restless, Deirdre rose to her feet and crossed again to 
the window. Out there in the dark night Rollo was 
lying, gathered close to the pitiless heart of the "great 
white mother," leaving behind him H)racinth : the child 
he loved — his life work — ^his last bequest to Deirdre. 

Should she make a supreme effort to bridge the gulf 
dividing them, drink to the dregs the cup of shame and 
throw herself on the girl's mercy, not for her own justifi- 
cation, but to pave the way to an understanding? 

Her whole pride rose in revolt, but she faced this last 
desperate chance. 

Chivalry was inherited. A Mesurier could never stoop 
to a mean injustice, whether the victim were friend or 
foe. "Fair play" again ! And could she by this devious 
route regain a hold on Hyacinth, content herself to re- 
ceive pity secretly flavoured with contempt? 

Horrible! Yet she fought it out. Dare she attempt 



AUTUMN 349 

this, for Rollo's sake? Would his spirit understand, rest 
in peace, aware that his child was safe in the hands of 
the woman he loved? 

She closed the shutters, shivering from the salt- 
drenched wind that swept the sea, and went back to her 
old seat, still battling with her pride. 

And at last her lips shaped "yes." Here was the ulti- 
mate ransom of love. For Rollo's sake she would make 
him the gift of her self-respect. She could do no 
more. . . • 

Her head sank down upon her hands. And then a 
fancy came to her. In the hush of the room she felt a 
new consciousness of spiritual help, as though some 
loving presence stole close to her side, upholding 
her. 

It was not a touch, but the same sense that a wife 
may feel as she lies in the dark by the man she loves, lost 
in dreams ; fearful to move and disturb his slumber, but 
acutely aware that within the reach of her gentle arms is 
her soul's strength — the sympathy and protection she 
craves. 

Deirdre held her breath, wide-eyed. Was this a first 
awakening to that "afterwards" that her lover had 
preached, the light of belief in his keen dark face ? 

Was his spirit, freed from the flesh, about her still, in- 
visible but earth-bound by a deathless love ? 

"Rollo !" she whispered through the night. 

So utterly absorbed was she, so lost in a vision be- 
yond the edge of material life, that she did not hear the 
faint opening creak of the door, nor catch a low sup- 
pressed sob and again she breathed the beloved name : 

"Rollo, dear heart, are you there?" 

It seemed to her that a soft sigh fluttered across — then 
the spell was snapped. 

For a piteous voice answered hers : 

"Deirdre ! I've come back. . . ." 

She started. A quick rustle of skirts, and at her feet 
a slender form was flung down, sobbing, spent, and a 
golden head was pressed on her knees. 

"Hyacinth! Oh, my childr 

They clung together, beyond speech. The merciful 




350 



AUTUMN 



tears met and mingled, flooding the bitterness out of dieir 
hearts. 

But still to Deirdre it seemed that a shadowy tiiini 
hovered near, at peace with the living and the dead, join- 
ing the links one by one. 

At last the girl relaxed her hold; the beautiful, dis- 
figured face, blistered with tears of grief and passion, 
showed dim in the firelight 

"I couldn't! Rollo"— she spoke in gasps — ^"He trusted 
me ! I've left Chris . . . And now," she wailed, ^'there's 
only you. Will you — take me — ^back again ?*' 

Deirdre could not trust her voice. This was his gift- 
compensation. 

She stooped and kissed the wet, salt cheek. 

"I'm going — ^to be good!" sobbed H3racintlu